Confession time: I hated guns since I was a small girl. While I’d never had a negative experience with a gun, my dad’s younger brother committed suicide via gunshot to the head when he was just 27. His death and the grief my family felt after are some of my very first memories in life.
Despite being a Marine, my father never owned a handgun again after that. For me, it wasn’t that my father spoke badly of guns (indeed, my father owned a shotgun and rifle). It was the idea of a machine that could and had been used to kill people made my stomach turn.
Whenever I had the occasion to be around guns (which was not often) I stayed away and refused to touch them. I made fun of girls I knew who went shooting for fun and posted Instagram pics of themselves posing with firearms. The idea that pointing at a target and pulling a trigger could be fun was lost on me.
The journey to gun-ownership hasn’t been easy. I have a love-hate relationship with the idea of defending myself with a lethal weapon. I simply cannot help but think of the uncle I never got to know every time I pick up a gun. It was the last thing he ever did. It’s powerful and sits heavy in my heart.
Two summers ago, I was assaulted. Held down against my will. With no knowledge of how to fight back or defend myself, I felt totally powerless. It had never actually occurred to me until that moment — the moment of truth — that I might ever need to defend myself. I said it before, but it bears repeating: I felt utterly powerless to help myself when I needed myself the most.
That incident was the catalyst for a great upheaval. A personal revolution had begun that would first take me through the dark alleyways of victimhood and grief. I had to trudge through the mud of processing what had actually happened to me and work out where to place the blame.
Obviously, the person who raped me was completely in the wrong. I did nothing to ask for it or deserve it. No one ever does— there is no such thing. But for me, I struggled to reconcile how helpless I felt. I struggled with blaming myself for being caught so off-guard. I never imagined that something like that could happen to me. It was a tough pill to swallow that my own naivety was a contributing factor to my assault.
When I finally made the decision that I would never go down without a fight again, it wasn’t some glorious scene where I painted my face with war paint and screamed “I am woman, hear me roar!” It was quite the opposite. Reluctant and stoic better describes my first few steps toward self-defense.
I’m not a hunter and I don’t revel in the smell of gunpowder and lead. But taking Krav Maga self-defense classes and getting my LTC was a necessary step on my road to recovery. A road which I continue to travel.
I’m eternally grateful to live in a country where my right to defend myself is constitutionally protected. I have great reverence for the reasons our Founding Fathers enshrined that in the Bill of Rights. They understood what I came to learn centuries later: that we are ultimately responsible for our own safety.
Another fact will never leave me: the machine that ended my Uncle’s life too soon may one day be the same machine that saves mine.