Monday, April 09, 2012

Go Ahead. Make My Day. (hee hee)

Given that I grew up in Wild West Wyoming, you'd probably think it's a safe assumption to make that I was born with a gun in my hand.

Of course, you would be wrong.

I didn't hold a gun in my hand (a 9 millimeter) until I was 17. I didn't dry fire a gun (a .357 Magnum) until I was 21. I didn't learn how to load a clip and fire live rounds (from a Glock .45) until I was in my mid-30's and dating a former cop.

Each one of those experiences terrified me.

All I knew about guns, until Jason took me to the firing range and forced me to practice, was what I'd seen in the movies. Guns are used to kill people. I don't like killing people. I don't want to do it accidentally. I'm sorry enough when it comes to cutting up bell peppers with a chef's knife. However, he and I were talking about moving in together at the time and he would not consider leaving me in a house alone with a firearm I wasn't able or prepared to use.

Fair enough.

We broke up not too long afterward (but not because of the gun).

Up until then, my stance on guns and gun control was decidedly on the side of anti-gun. Guns = Bad. Bad People have guns. Bad People do bad things with guns. Get rid of all the guns. Make more laws. Problem solved.


But Jason was the first to turn me around in my thinking. Even though my fear of guns increased significantly after he and I went to the firing range one time - the experience shook me to the core - my thoughts were starting to shift. And then, as my social circles widened dramatically, as I became exposed to and befriended a number of people from all walks of life, as I began having dialogues with more and more people - people with guns, people with concealed weapon permits...sane, rational, responsible people - I began to understand the holes and flaws in my long held belief regarding the evilness of firearms even if my all out terror of guns didn't diminish.

And then I moved in with Lex - former military, firm believer in his right to bear arms.

It didn't occur to me I was, at the ripe age of 36, living with my first handgun until he mentioned it in passing - I was probably doing dishes and not thoroughly listening - and I was all like, "Wait...what? Oh. Um. Don't tell me where it lives. I don't want to know."

It took several months of conversation, several months of trust building, several months of breathing deeply in through my nose and out through my mouth to avoid panicking before I was even ready to see it or know where he kept it.

He waited patiently for me. When I finally broke down and asked to see it, to know where it lived, he was ready for me. He walked me through the process of ensuring it was unloaded (he unloaded it, I didn't). He sat with it while we talked, my eyes trained on it, apparently waiting for it to take on a life of its own and start shooting at will. It didn't and I didn't die.

That wasn't the a-ha moment about gun control for me though. With Lex, everything is safe, controlled. He's got a handle on things...he's got a handle on me. Him having a gun made complete sense and I didn't mind.

The a-ha moment came during a conversation with a close friend who confided she had a handgun and a license to carry a concealed weapon. At the time, she was a college student and, at the time, the Colorado legislature had just banned guns from all college campuses as part of the backlash from the mass shooting at Virginia Tech a few years prior. She said, "In the event of a college campus shooting, the Colorado legislature has just signed our death warrants. Seung-Hui Cho didn't care about gun laws when he open fired on campus.  He cared about killing people. He wouldn't have cared whether guns were allowed on campus or not. Laws like these don't stop mad men. Thus, the rest of us law-abiding citizens who won't break the new law and carry on campus are effectively rendered defenseless. I have a gun. I am trained and am competent to use it. I am prepared to use it to defend myself and others from harm. And now I am told to disarm myself. Great."




Oh shit. She's right.

*light bulb*

Since then, I've hungered for information about guns and gun laws. I met Kelli - a vocal advocate for open carry - someone who knows the ins and outs of gun laws as they vary from state to state. Kelli who is cautious to a fault (is there such a thing?) when it comes to gun safety. Kelli who exercises his right to open carry his firearm whenever the law allows. Kelli, who is willing and prepared to be harassed by the police every time he exercises his right for the sole purpose of proving that responsible gun ownership exists...that the second amendment to the US Constitution is his right as an American citizen exists.

Since then, I've invited #himself from upstairs to show me how one of his handguns works. I've loaded the (bullet-less...I am me, after all) clip, chambered a (non-existent) round, released the safety, and dry-fired in the direction of a rogue table lamp multiple times. I even demonstrated my prowess for Lex. Lex kinda just nodded, rolled his eyes, and offered praise *laughing*.

But...I'm ready for the firing range. I think.

Something about that conversation with my college student friend changed me. Changed my mind. All of a sudden, it was clear to me. Bad People will do Bad Things with guns - regardless of what the laws read. Am I willing to die because a Bad Person doesn't care if it's against the law to have a gun and I, well, do? Am I willing to continue to live in a house with a firearm and depend on someone else to defend me if a Bad Person decides to break in and try to hurt me? Hurt Lex? Hurt *gasp* Vinny?

Guns are a Big Deal in the United States. That isn't going to change. And even if the federal legislature is able to overturn the second amendment to the US Constitution and the Supreme Court upholds it, there are still guns guns guns galore. Except then they'd all be in the hands of the Bad People.

Lucy posted the other day about being scared shitless in her bed, thinking an intruder had entered her home while she laid there alone and helpless. She called her husband 1,800 miles away to "protect" her...her gut reaction.

I commented on her post with the following: This feminist would have totally done the same thing. Being a feminist doesn't mean being exempt from fear. As women, we know there are many monsters who go bump in our nights. Lucky for me, if Lex weren't home (and, let's face it, Lex is ALWAYS home), I'd be calling modchen (all 90 terrifying pounds of her) and #himself to come rescue me.

At the moment I clicked "publish comment" I knew I couldn't depend on Lex, on modchen (beware the tiny dynamo), #himself, or Acr0nym to help me. Not when every second counts. I knew then I needed to learn to be proficient and confident in gun management all on my own. You do know Bad People (and zombies) are everywhere, right?

Gun management is a baking, knitting, kung fu. If I'm unafraid to souffle, shouldn't it also be true that I should be unafraid to lock and load?

Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

While I do not oppose waiting periods or background checks, those seem to me to be sound laws, I need to know how to defend myself against those with guns. All those with guns. Most notably the Bad People.

Especially while it's my right...nay, my know.

Hee hee. Lookie, Jack! It's the Jane of Songs!


Ernie Hendrix said...

I'm the proud, licensed owner of a 357 Magnum revolver and am also the holder of a concealed carry permit. I grew up and still live in the South and we are a gun-totin' bunch. I was in a courtroom full of potential jurors one day, maybe 150 people, and the judge in an attempt to speed up voir dire asked for a show of hands of everyone in the group who personally owned a gun. About 145 hands went up immediately. Yep, we're believers around here.

However, that being said, I don't carry my gun. It's safely locked up. Why? Because my husband and I neither one are sure I could use it when I needed to. Not because I don't know how, I do. But because by the time I decided I needed to use it, the bad guy(s) would have had plenty of time to take it away from me. And use it on ME. Not the desired outcome. I realized that I would have to be so incredibly convinced I was in harm's way that it would probably be too late. Sad, huh? But we still take it out occasionally and go the indoor shooting range just because it's fun to put on the hearing protectors and shoot holes in paper bad guys.

(Ms.) Ernie

@NativeMikeAdams said...

Interesting post and the topic is one I've thought about at length for many years. I do own three guns. The only one I would use for self defense is a 12GA shotgun, which doesn't shoot anymore, however the sound of a 12GA pump action is the most terrifying sound in the world to a would-be intruder.

I am friends with a great many police and security guards (highly trained guards, who work for a company that guards our national laboratory).

I'm pretty sympathetic to your first comment about hesitating to shoot someone. Taking a human life=BIG DEAL! I'm banking on two things, first that any "bad guy" would leave me alone (and by extension those around me) and Second, that any "bad guy" who doesn't leave me along, also doesn't have combat training with a fire arm.

Unless they can shoot a moving target accurately, I believe my black belt in Tae Kwon Do gives me the advantage.

I really am not sure I could shoot someone if the situation was thrust upon me. I'd have to hesitate, potentially giving them the opportunity to shoot first or take my gun away.

That was an interesting post...Obviously, I'm ambivalent about the 2nd amendment. I am an excellent shot and I love shooting.

I also believe that America has a gun and murder problem, particularly when compared to the rest of the industrialized world.

We seem to be doing something wrong...not that I claim to know what or how to fix it. This is exactly why why I'm ambivalent!

thanks for the thought provoking article Jane!

--mike adams

Gaelyn said...

If there's a gun in the house you should be familiar with it, and confident. Go for the shooting range.

I didn't grow up with guns, but did learn to be a pretty good shot at the range as a teenager because a boyfriend hunted.

You are so right about the gun laws.

Yet another great post.

Celeste Neumann said...

My dad served in WWII - from start to finish. He had two shotguns, an M-14, an SS-Luger pistol and a WWII Army-issue Colt .45.
I fired a .22 rifle when I was but 13.
Both my parents were of the opinion that we "needed guns" in our house to protect us from the "bad people". My questions like "Isn't what the police are supposed to do?" were answered with, "They can't be everywhere!"
Then I grew older and asked, "But what if they took all the guns away? Then the bad people wouldn't have them." This was answered with, "But then only the bad people would have them." I got a piss-poor answer when it came to the question, "Yes, wouldn't they be bad, simply for having a gun in the first place? Then the police could arrest them for having a gun, before they did something bad with it." Then my parents would become angry and ask a counter question, "Don't you love our country?"
Ha! Did you catch the fallacy, too?
Now I live in a country where it is extremely difficult to own a gun. You can't buy them in vending machines in Grand Central Station, or pick one up at the check-out stand at Walmart. Almost 90 million people live in the little country about the size of Colorado. It's one of the most densely populated countries in the world - chocked full of often very unhappy campers. You can walk the streets at night in Berlin or Frankfurt, and you probably won't be accosted at all. Less people are murdered in this country full of people than on Long Island, where only 14 million people live.
The thing is Jane - the thing that NRA and all the weapons manufactures don't tell you - Weapons allow mostly very good people to make very bad decisions and do harm - just because they're there: loaded, primed and available. Weapons can turn a good person having a bad day into a very bad person in a second. If you ever saw the film "Bowling for Columbine" you might wonder why you really need a weapon in the first place. Maybe you're being suggested the danger is greater than it really is. Would you really want to kill someone - someone's son or brother, or boyfriend; murder them for taking an inanimate thing away from you? Before you kill a thief, remember you will be killing a human somebody else loves, and who will never forgive you for killing a person for taking a thing.

Masked Mom said...

I grew up with guns--not in Wyoming, but in Pennsylvania. I was so young the first time I shot a gun that I don't even remember the first time I shot a gun--if that makes any sense. I know I was regularly target shooting in my grandfather's country backyard with my father by the age of four. I know that by the time I was nine, my father would set up rows of cans to show off my marksmanship to his friends. The guns in our house were used primarily for hunting and sport--I don't believe I've ever fired a handgun of any sort, though both my father and grandfather owned them. And my grandfather frequently used a revolver with bird shot rounds in it to do away with mice and bats that dared enter his house.

Inspired by a scene in a show Hubby was watching (where a character proposed to his girlfriend at a shooting range), I was just trying to figure out the other day how long it had been since I had held, let alone fired, a gun and I would have to say at least since high school graduation. Though not shooting was more a matter of the distractions of other commitments and not a conscious decision to abstain, during my growing up years and since then, several things have happened that have influenced my opinions on guns, if not on the laws that control them. I have considered posting about it before. Your post may just be the inspirational spur I need to follow through on it.

Diva said...

"Would you really want to kill someone - someone's son or brother, or boyfriend; murder them for taking an inanimate thing away from you?"

If the person is in my house and I feel they might do me harm, yes, I would shoot them, with no question.

I would not consider the other person and their potential loved ones or abstract forgiveness from people I don't even know. I would only be thinking of my own survival in a situation with a potentially very Bad Person.

I don't know their intention is just to steal and, in the moment, I wouldn't stop to consider WHY they are there at all. My sole thought would be about being attacked or murdered.

So, if someone enters my house with the idea of stealing, raping, killing, or whatever, screw them *and* their loved ones. Their family should have taught them not to enter other people's homes with any kind of criminal intent. They could get one of four 9mm's, two 38's, or a shotgun.

Lucy said...

I can't tell you how seriously I am thinking of taking classes on defense and learning to shoot, I was terrified and defenseless!

mooooooo said...

i am fantastically proud of you. it takes courage to conquer instinctive fear and distaste.

i've never done a range up here - i don't know how they interact with criminal records - but i know some spots on blm land and i'll be happy to go with you if you ever want to go out in the country and have target practice.

Margi said...

I struggle mightily with this question. Guns or no guns? Well, it's built in to our Constitution, so ... okay. Kinda.

I hear what you're saying and I have the utmost respect for the journey you've detailed here. I still ask, regarding this "Bad People will do Bad Things with guns - regardless of what the laws read. Am I willing to die because a Bad Person doesn't care if it's against the law to have a gun and I, well, do?" - should I be living my life in fear? Where do I draw the line between what I am willing to learn to do in case "Bad People" come into my life and what I'm not willing to do.

I'm not criticizing your choice. I guess I'm defending my own.

I do not allow guns in my home. My father was a Colorado State Parole Officer and I made him leave his gun either in his trunk or at his house. I also don't allow cigarette smoking and that pissed him off more, I have to say. It was the best feeling in the world to tell my Dad that as long as he was under my roof he had to follow my rules. < /digression >

I can see value in learning to operate a gun and certainly understand there are skills involved. To borrow from your analogy, a souffle isn't going to accidentally injure or kill someone who comes across it thinking it's unloaded. I'm not willing to live in fear of Bad People to the point of sacrificing my choices.

"I need to know how to defend myself against those with guns. All those with guns. Most notably the Bad People." I respectfully offer that there are ways to defend myself against those with guns that don't include guns in my hands.

All this said - if there's a gun in your house, you should absolutely know how to use it.

And, most importantly, I think I adore you even more now. True statement. ;-)

Graciewilde said...

I grew up in a house with no guns except cowboy and Indian guns of the 1950's. I came of age in the flower child days of the 60's - no guns, just peace (and pot). I actually would like to learn how to fire a gun for the sport of it. I think it would be fun. I have NO interest in hunting animals or shooting people - for sure - but target practice? that could be fun! As for the politics of guns, I suppose I want to live in the ideal world where people don't carry weapons - Hell, I'd like a police force that does not carry weapons but that would never happen. The world is too dangerous?

Laine Griffin said...

Interesting, Jane. I'm really not comfortable with guns - at all. Especially in my house. Even though I grew up with one in the house.
Anyway, thanks for provoking my thoughts! :)