The Controversial Life Of Living With A Gun
In 2012, shock took over when we heard the news of a gunman killing children while they were in school. Then again in 2016, we mourned after hearing of the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. In 2017 in Las Vegas, and yet again, in 2018 in Florida. There have been shootings in between these, but these are the ones that are engraved into our minds. These shootings have opened controversy on whether civilians should have access to guns. I believe most people who are on the side of anti-gun, have never even held one in their hands, let alone shot one.
Before joining the Army, I had never shot a gun. I remember our first range where we were being taught how to shoot the M4 Carbine. We’d been carrying it and learning about it since the beginning, and it was time to put what we’d learned to the test. I lay, prone, waiting for the first target to pop up with my finger on the trigger. I was terrified. I heard the “POP” of the rifle next to me, which made me jump. A burning hot shell casing from the soldier’s rifle who was next to me had landed in the cuff of my uniform. I removed it, and my targets began popping up. I hesitated for a second and then pulled the trigger. My target went down, and I went on and shot all the rest of them. It was an easy process and an exhilarating one at that. The smell of spent brass filled the air, and it is now one of my favorite scents. I was no longer scared; I wanted to learn more. I then went on to shoot the M9 pistol, a 240-b (a machine gun), a 50 caliber, and many other weapons.
In the Army, your sole purpose of learning to shoot is to kill. Two in the chest, one in the head. A situation I was faced with a few times in my time in service. The most prominent situation in my head was of a soldier who we’d been dispatched to his house to answer a domestic violence call. He opened the door wielding two large kitchen knives. He failed to listen to the instructions we gave him, and he was within two feet of me. I could have killed him and been well within my rights to do so. I chose not to, and he responded to one of my partners telling him he was about to be tased.
Now, at the age of 26, I have shot numerous types of guns in and out of my time in the Army. I married a man who loves hunting, and we do a lot of. We lived in a country setting, no neighbors close by, on a dirt road. It was a hot night, and soon after letting our dog Sadie out he said, “gun.” It took me a second to register that he wanted me to get it. I gave him a loaded rifle, and we all jumped when we heard the shot ring through the air. We didn’t have a clue what he was shooting at until afterward when he told us the dog was face to face with an opossum. I am an animal lover, so I was angry that he would shoot the poor thing when it was likely to be looking for food. However, I learned that where we were living, this was a common practice. They see opossums as menaces as well as many other animals. This is my new normal. I have shot and killed a pheasant, which we cleaned and cooked, and my husband ate. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. I have come home to find squirrel legs in the fridge because he wanted to see what a squirrel tasted like. I tanned the hide of a deer, and it now sits on my office wall as I type.
I grew up in New Jersey, with a family that believes in the well-being of all animals. I’m pretty sure the pictures I sent to my mother of the dead deer we got last year caused her to become a vegetarian. While I don’t believe in killing animals for fun, I am thankful for every single one that we shoot and eat. I have grown accustomed to carrying a gun on me when we go out into the woods. I have sat in a hunting shack, and awaited my deer, with no luck, this past hunting season. We recently went to a sporting goods store, and after years of looking at pistols, we finally had the opportunity to make payments on two pistols. One for each of us that we will use for concealed carry. When I sent pictures to my family, they all responded with, “beautiful” but also came the “what do you need that for?”. I then talked to my brother, who claimed he was against concealed carry because it puts weapons into the hands of people who perform these mass shootings. My mom claims that the laws aren’t strict enough and that people who have a mental illness should require more screenings to determine their eligibility for guns.
My husband and I both suffer from mental illnesses, and at different points in our life, we have both contemplated whether we should be alive. We are both very aware of where our guns are pointed and let each other know when our weapons are “hot.” We only point at things we plan to shoot, and as soon as we are finished we check to ensure our weapons are clear. We carry guns for recreational use and will carry pistols for personal safety. Mass shootings are a common occurrence today, and human trafficking is alive and well. I would rather be prepared to fight off an attacker than die because I was unprepared. I want to protect my family, and those around me if we become victims in these troubling times.
While many people do not agree with my point of view or my ways of life, these are often the same people who do not know my husband or I. They have never been in my home and seen how much we love our animals, and how I love even the wildest of animals. My husband’s cousin scheduled a visit with her neighbor so that I could hug a sheep. We drive by farms, and I always say how I want to grab a cow by its large cheeks and give it a smooch. These people have never sat at my dinner table and laughed while eating a delicious meal. They have never ridden in the car with us as we turn the radio up high and sing our lungs out. We are very welcoming people, with big hearts and we would never hurt anyone unless they were hurting us.
I hope that reading this will open more people’s minds to the other side of owning a gun, the respectful and safe way rather than the violent, killing way. Owning a gun is not dangerous if you know what you are doing and practice handling them safely. It is a way of life. There are days my husband decides the guns need cleaning. We go to sporting goods stores and always look in their weapons section. We discuss which ones we would like to have and why. We take trips to his mom’s house and practice shooting at paper targets. A few years ago, I would have said, “no” to owning a gun. But now, I think that everyone should have at least one and that children should be taught the proper weapons safety, and learn how to shoot and hunt. This world is angry, and I am happy to live in it knowing that I could save a life by using a gun against someone who wants to take mine. I understand the fear that is associated with a gun in the hands of a wrong-doer, but if people take the time to learn about them, a lot of that fear will disappear.