Why I Carry
Why women carry, No. 3, 5 November, 2000
by Paul Hager © 2000IC Title 35, Article 47, Chapter 2. Regulation of Handguns Article I, Section 32, Indiana Constitution
For this installment, I've selected six pieces that provide a woman's perspective on carrying a gun for self-defense. These women have diverse backgrounds and careers but you will observe some common themes in these offerings: protecting home and family, being secure away from the house, restraining abusive ex-husbands or boyfriends. At its most fundamental level, carrying a gun and becoming proficient in its use is empowering for a woman in a way that nothing else is. One of the women notes that she is more assertive since she started carrying.
Some years ago, in the wake of a series of break-ins and assaults against women that occurred in Bloomington, I wrote a guest editorial for the Bloomington Herald-Times in which I argued that women's groups in town were derelict for not telling women that one option open to them was to obtain a gun. What a ridiculous idea, responded the H-T in its own editorial. After a brief exchange -- to its credit the H-T allowed me to respond -- the newspaper acknowledged that my argument might have some merit (the H-T did so chiefly because it had no facts to back up its position). However, the various public and private organizations putatively devoted to "empowering" women steadfastly stuck to their non-guns, so to speak. And it continues. The "Million Moms" of recent history actively campaigned to make women permanent victims. As a student of the sociology of political movements I can understand the phenomenon of groups advocating self-destructive policies but as a person I find such dedicated obscurantism incredible.
It's unfortunate that we can't reboot the universe -- go back to a particular point in time, change a few conditions, and start things up again. For example, go back to that fateful night when Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson were killed and give Nicole a handgun. Of course, we don't know precisely what the tactical situation would have been, but all of the real-world evidence indicates that she would have had a better chance of survival armed than in the condition in which her assailant found her. In that alternate, rebooted universe, as Goldman grapples with the attacker, Nicole pulls her pistol and shoots -- 5, maybe 6 times -- and the man falls dead. The ski mask is pulled back, revealing ... well, we all know who he was, don't we?
Of course, we can play this game in the other direction. For example, there was an incident several years ago in Bedford, Indiana. A woman's sister was undergoing a very nasty split from the latter's abusive husband. The sister moved in with the woman and her husband. The estranged husband kept calling the sister, threatening to kill her. Protective orders were obtained and the police were alerted -- all the usual stuff. One day, the estranged husband calls, and says he's coming over to kill his wife. A 911 call is made and the police are alerted. The estranged husband arrives first and busts down the door, finding the two women alone. He grabs his wife by the hair and begins to drag her out of the house. The other women goes to where her husband keeps his loaded .357 revolver, grabs it and shoots twice, killing her sister's estranged husband -- and almost certainly saving her sister's life. The police, as is typical, arrived far too late to be a factor.
Now, let's reboot, and put a trigger lock on the gun, which is stored unloaded and separate from its ammunition. While the woman struggles to find the key, open the trigger lock and attempt to load the gun, her sister is beaten to death in the front yard. The man now comes inside to deal with the sister, who is still fumbling around trying to get ammunition to load the gun, and he kills her too. The police show up, the man surrenders, and days later the advocates for battered women besiege the state legislature for "tougher laws" to deal with abusive spouses.
Actually, the trigger lock scenario above does have its counterpart in real life. In August of this year, in Merced, California, a naked man wielding a pitchforkbroke into a home, killed two of five children and injured the rest. The oldest, a 14-year-old who was baby-sitting the others, attempted to get her father's gun, which was locked away in compliance with California law. She was, by all accounts, a good shot and would have known what to do had she been able to get the gun.
There is nothing ennobling about victimhood, nor is there morality in imposing pacifism on others. These six women have gone against convention, have ignored the manipulated and misguided "million moms", and chosen "equality" for themselves. To paraphrase an old saying: God created men and women; Samuel Colt made them equal.
Now, the women speak...
I was raised around firearms. I can't even remember the first time I shot a gun. I had my first hunting license at age 10 or 12. I used to hunt rabbit, squirrel, and deer with my father and brother. I have even bagged the occasional groundhog which had decided to burrow too close to my parents' house. At one time I could out shoot my brother and all my male cousins with a .22 rifle or a shotgun. My father had a few pistols around, but I don't recall shooting them very often. When I married the first time, we had little money and lived in an older and poorer part of town. My husband worked nights and I remember being frightened many times when I was alone, and then years later when I was there with our infant son. However, I was still fairly young and uninformed about my self-defense options. In other words, it never really occurred to me to get off my butt and do something about my own fear. When my son turned 3 I divorced my 1st husband. This was the first time I seriously considered getting a permit and carrying a gun for self-protection. This time it was not the average criminal I was most afraid of, but rather the man I was in the process of divorcing. Things calmed down once the divorce was final, and shortly afterwards I remarried. Now I was married to a wonderful man who provided a nice home for me in a "safe" neighborhood". Once again I became complacent and did nothing towards getting my permit and carrying a gun for protection. My 2nd husband had 2 grown, married daughters. Soon they both had children of their own and I became the baby-sitter. Now suddenly, I was carting around 3 children, all under the age of 5. It was at this point I KNEW I had to do something to ensure their safety. If we were attacked, what would I do? I certainly couldn't run away carrying a baby, a toddler and a 4 year old. I couldn't fight an attacker, not and protect the children at the same time. I decided that the only way I could protect myself and the 3 children was to carry a gun. My husband and I applied for our permits and then went to purchase our handguns. It took a while to find one I was comfortable with. In fact, I bought and sold several models before I found one that "fit". And still, almost 10 years later, I haven't found a holster I am 100% happy with. Carrying a gun is a job that lasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You have to know where it is; what condition it is in; if it's safe; etc. It is also not the most comfortable thing in the world to wear. You have to choose your clothes for that "conceal" factor. But no matter how much trouble it is, the peace of mind it brings is still worth the effort. Sure, I'm still scared sometimes, but I'm not scared and helpless. I know if I get in a tight spot I have something to defend myself and the children with ... and that makes any effort well worth it.
The local paper mentioned that a man was prowling local neighborhoods looking for female victims who were alone at night. He raped and robbed them. One incident happened across the highway from me. It was then that I decided to be responsible for my own protection. I bought a handgun and proceeded to join a local gun club for training and practice in using the weapon.
A friend who was a local deputy applauded my efforts and said it best, "You are responsible for your own personal safety. If somebody breaks into your house, there is a time lag between when the incident occurs and when the police reach your house -- if they can be reached at all. Criminals look for the easiest victims to prey upon."
My friend, who was a deputy, let me take an interactive training video which uses a laser gun. Not only does an individual have to determine proper response to the video scenarios, but response time and shot placement are also measured. My results were as good as the police so I feel confident I could protect myself if necessary. I feel much more secure than before, but training is absolutely critical. Practice is also necessary on a regular basis. Knowing the law is essential as well.
Before I started carrying, I had two encounters that convinced me that carrying was probably a good idea.
One happened as I was working cleaning office buildings at night. I was wheeling a load of garbage out to the dumpster around 9 p.m. in the pitch dark. A car crept along the parking lot, and stopped about 10 yards from me shining its lights directly at me. I had just finished dumping the last of the garbage, and turned back toward the building. The car was between me and the door. I didn't know what to do. A stroke of luck saved me. My back twinged, and my hand went to my back under my jacket suddenly and involuntarily. The car slammed into reverse and sped away. When I told my co-workers what had happened, and that the car had mysteriously sped away, they laughed and said, "Look in the mirror. See what you look like with your hand on your back like that." I looked, and realized it must have looked like I was reaching for a gun. The unintentional bluff had worked.
I used this same principle again while I was driving home from another cleaning job one night. The street that ran behind the mall was deserted. I was stopped at one stop light, but I could see all the way to the corner to the next stop light. There standing on the corner, with no traffic to prevent him from crossing, was a man in a bulky jacket. He turned and looked toward me. My light turned green, and I went up to the next light and stopped. He stepped off the curb and headed straight for me. I locked eyes with him, got ready to run the light if need be, and dropped my hand suddenly between the seats as if reaching for a gun. The man turned around and ran for all he was worth back to the curb and down the street. Again, I was saved by a bluff.
How many times would that work before someone called the bluff, though, I wondered.
I live near Atlanta, GA. About two years ago we had a rash of sexual assaults and robberies by a criminal who came to be known as the Northside Rapist. At the time, I lived in an apartment complex just off of I-285--right in the Northside Rapist's preferred territory. I was living with my then-lifepartner and another woman who had a little girl. We learned that this man had attacked at least three times in our little apartment complex alone. I bought a Taurus .38 special. At the time, I was working between two and three jobs and rarely got home before 3 a.m. I obtained my concealed carry permit, but was still somewhat uncomfortable about it because I had no formal training in its use.
About six months later my relationship soured in a big way. I won't bore you with the details. You can read them in any book on domestic violence.
That was about the time that I met my now-fiancé, Bear. I began speaking to Bear on-line because of his computer expertise and I hoped he could help me set up a home-based business. When things went sour, he started speaking to me in his other work role--that of a sergeant for our local sheriff's department. He finally brought me to my senses one day when he took off the kid gloves and said to me straight out, "If you don't get out, you'll be dead within a year." I listened to him. Finally.
His Christmas gift to me last year was a Russian Makarov pistol and several lessons on its use. In my humble opinion, this is a perfect gun for women with little experience with firearms and small hands. It's easy to take care of, easy to clean, and holds 8 rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. Nine shots. More than enough for the average self-defense encounter.
Of course it wasn't long after I left that the phone calls started, and the threats. (Again, reference that textbook on domestic violence.) I made it clear that not only did I now work with Bear at the sheriff's department (I managed to get a secretary position in another division) but that I carried my own pistol whenever I was not at work.
The calls have stopped, but I still carry. I don't know what my ex is capable of at this point, but I don't want to find out either.
The third reason I carry is a fairly recent addition. I work, as I said, answering phones for the local sheriff's department. I hear at least five or six calls a day from people (both men and women) who are living in constant fear of some stalker or neighborhood criminal. Many of these situations escalate, and they escalate quickly and without warning. Most, if not all, of these long ordeals of terror could be ended if people were willing to defend themselves. Even at best, it still takes five to ten minutes for a police car to arrive on a scene from the moment a person picks up the phone to dial 911. Everything could be over by then, and the wrong person could be lying there dead.
I don't intend to be a victim ever again. I've had too much of that. I've been punched, robbed, intimidated, and raped.
It may happen again, but the one who tries it is going to have work a lot harder than anyone has ever had to before.
I like going shooting with my fiancé. I've learned a lot about world history through guns. Bear has taken me on a tour of history from the modern pistols, back through revolvers, shotguns, military and hunting rifles, shotguns, and black powder weapons.
Ladies, be not intimidated by any firearm. I'm a little bitty gal, 5' 0", and I've shot AK-47's, SKS's, 12-gauge shotguns, and WWII Mauser 8mm rifles (the bolt action so-called "sniper rifles").
I am a housewife and mother in SW Washington state who carries a concealed weapon nearly every day.
I carry my handgun around the house during the day and into town with me on the days we are running errands. On our not-infrequent trips into big cities, I carry and feel safer for doing so. While driving down deserted country roads, I feel confident knowing that I have a spare tire, enough gasoline in the tank, and a weapon to defend myself if the car breaks down.
When I have a car full of children and someone in the back says "I gotta go NOW," I know that I can pull into a rest area along the highway without fear, because my gun makes me able to protect my children from the predators that may lurk there.
When I first got my handgun, I worried very much about how to protect my children from hurting or killing themselves with it... but I worried more about someone else hurting or killing them if I didn't have one.
I keep my gun locked up when it isn't in my holster -- but it's in my holster almost every hour that I am awake. While I sleep, my bedroom door is locked and my gun is within reach inside an unlocked gun case. If one of the children knocks on my bedroom door, I close and lock the gun case before opening the door. When I get up for the day, I put my gun on along with my clothes.
A few years back, a woman was kidnapped in broad daylight less than a mile from my house. Her young children saw the scumbags that took her. She was later murdered. While this certainly isn't a common occurrence in my rural neighborhood, it only takes one thug and one unprepared victim for it to happen again. I'm not a thug and I don't intend to be the victim, either.
My husband often works nights, coming home long after midnight. I sleep more soundly with the knowledge that I do not have to be helpless while my man is not in the house.
Our children have all been taught what to do when they see a gun left somewhere -- Stop. Don't touch. Leave the area. Call an adult. They know this as they know the safety rules "stop, drop, roll" if their clothes catch on fire. We have practiced "finding a gun" drills with them just as we have practiced fire drills, and I am confident that if they ever find a gun in our home or someone else's, they will know what to do about it.
I am far more confident that my loaded weapon, on my hip, is inaccessible to them, than I am that any safety device or trigger lock could keep them from harming themselves -- and those devices could keep me from protecting them at a moment when the gun is needed.
Why do I carry? I carry because I can -- I can protect my family, I can protect myself. It gives me peace of mind and confidence. I don't have to cower in fear. I don't have to submit to a rapist or plead for my life and the lives of my children. I don't have to worry about my safety when I am home alone with the kids. I don't have to fear slow police response times when I am threatened. All I have to do is own a weapon and know how to use it.
Let me start by saying how it feels not to carry, now that I'm used to carrying. It feels like going back into earthquake country. When I lived in California, I didn't think that much about earthquakes. California residents learn to forget that constant background risk, except when specially reminded. Once I moved away and got used to living where the earthquake risk is far less, I lost that defense mechanism. Now, when I contemplate our annual visit to my parents, I feel strange exposing myself and my children to that additional risk. When I go to the post office or the courthouse, and leave my pistol at home, I feel a similar strangeness -- an awareness of a risk I had once blocked out and then escaped.
When I carry, I don't feel like a crime waiting to happen. I may think more about possible dangers than I would without a weapon -- because I rehearse self-defense strategies. But I don't feel as wary or prey-like. I feel like a responsible adult citizen, going about my business as I'm entitled to do.
As Robert Heinlein warned in Tunnel in the Sky, I may be more likely to get into certain types of confrontations when I'm armed -- even though being armed might not be enough to get me out of them. I don't mean I do road rage or get in people's faces! but I might intervene if I saw a violent incident. Another example: in the YMCA parking lot, someone parked in the middle of two spaces. Arriving to drop my kids off at camp, I parked behind that caracross both spaces, thus essentially reclaiming the usurped space -- and blocking the offender's car in. The irony is that I wasn't carrying that day -- but I'd forgotten that fact. I probably would not have taken the risk if I had remembered that I was unarmed.
Over the years I have had a few people ask me why I carry a gun. Not knowing how to respond to someone without causing a debate over gun control, my usual reply is "Why not?" or "Because I can."
It's not as if I grew up in a bad neighborhood or violent household - quite the opposite. I grew up in a quite upper middle class part of town and went to a good school. Guns were a non-issue when I was growing up. The only time I ever heard of or saw a gun was on TV.
Then I moved away from home and that security of being young and protected was not there. After a couple of years of being on my own and seeing more of what the real world is like, I began to think that it might be a good idea to have some way of protecting myself and others around me. To me, a gun seemed to be the best form of protection.
When I watch the news, I see acts of violence occurring every day in all parts of the country. I have had several friends, acquaintances and family members that have been attacked, mugged, stalked or raped. These things only confirm my decision to carry a gun.
If I had to choose one reason why I carry a gun, I would have to say that it is because I refuse to be someone else's victim.