On Sunday after the final event of the Gun Blogger Rendezvous (Cowboy Fast Draw), I jumped in the car and sped home. Racing into the house, I flung range clothes and gear everywhere, washed up and thew on church clothes. Grabbing my Primary bag, I breathlessly kissed GB goodbye and drove towards the church meetinghouse. I got there just in time to teach my Primary class. Sister S saw me walk in and said “Oh, thank God!” because if I hadn’t shown up, she would have had to teach my class and her class. That’s enough to give a person a heart attack!
One of the most curious boys of the Primary asked me “Where were you?” I don’t lie to these kids. They’re only three, but they’re not dumb. When they ask me about Potiphar’s wife and adultery, I explain it to them. When the “Families Can Be Together Forever” lesson prompts questions about divorce, I answer them. Knowing that I was going to shock my fellow church goers wandering the halls as I lead my class around them and to our classroom, I said “I was shooting Cowboy Fast Draw.” He asked what that was and I explained that it’s when you go to a safe place called a range and there you shoot revolvers. You try to see how fast you can safely take the revolvers out of their special holders called holsters and point them at the target and shoot them. “Oh, okay. What’s for snack?” was the response.
I got more thrilling of an interlude with the adults that overheard me telling the children where I was than from the children themselves! After church let out and my Primary children were picked up from class by their parents, two members of the teaching staff came to talk to me. Sister M and Sister K. Sister M told me how she had taken a CCW class here in Nevada and how it affected her to know that she had the capability to kill someone. This came as such a shock to her that when she realized it, it brought her to tears right in the CCW class. She never went to apply for her CCW because of this stunning realization.
Sister K told me that someone broke into her garage and then tried to break into her house. She was home alone with her two small children. As a single mother, she is all they have in the world and they are all she has. The burglar could have changed all that. Luckily it didn’t. Sister K yelled at the burglar that she had a gun and if he came through that door she would shoot him. She sounded serious. The burglar ran away, leaving Sister K swimming in adrenaline and fear. She asked me if I would teach her to shoot so that way she could buy a gun with which to protect her family if she and they are ever threatened again.
We talked together about how Sister M’s experience and Sister K’s experience are intertwined. It is shocking to realize that we have the training and capability to take a person’s life. We may fear and hate the part of us that could be capable of going through with that. We may be stunned and disgusted with the violence within ourselves. But as a mother, those powerful negative emotions against self-defense change when our families, our babies, are involved. Of course no one ever wants to have to defend themselves and their loved ones from death, but we all will do so when confronted with that situation.
It’s basic human nature. No one wants to die. It’s also love and parental instinct. No one wants to see their children hurt or killed. When women see our babies in danger, our ability to fight will flip on like a light, even if we didn’t know that light switch was there or if we knew it was there and were afraid of it.
Women tend to be more like light switches when it comes to violence. Most of the time, we are “off” and we consider ourselves non-violent people, not particularly interested in using physical force against other people, or in showing off our potential for it. But when a woman is seriously threatened, or her children are, suddenly the switch is thrown to the “on” position, and she becomes a tremendously force, both willing and capable of inflicting the most grievous injury on whoever is threatening her life or her children’s.
Women are often mistaken, by men and even by other women, as being incapable of defending themselves, because, except in sports, women are seldom seen to use force in the ways that are easily interpreted as meaning that this person is capable of violent self-defense. Both men and women are perfectly capable of using extreme force in extreme situations, but we often see men using lower levels of force in non-defense situations (the dimmer switch again), which most women would avoid or find a different way to behave.
Women who have never been put into a life-threatening situation, and who have never seen another woman fight for her life, may not realize that they are capable of this light switch behavior. They think “I could never fight back” or “If someone really wants to kill or rape me, he will” or “I don’t want to learn how to kill people.”
Men who have never seen the women in their lives undergo that light switch behavior may think, “She’ll never be able to protect herself,” or ” Why should I teach her about guns?”
These attitudes, by both sexes, are wrong, and, combined with another strong difference in the way men and women regard concealed carry of firearms, can be absolutely dangerous.
So, here goes my neck again. Men tend to (1) decide they want to be able to protect themselves and their families with a gun, then (2) they buy a gun, then (3) they take some lessons in how to use it. Women tend to go through those three steps in the OPPOSITE order.
I wish I knew where Sister M took her CCW class. I’d love to go talk to those instructors about how it feels as a female take a CCW course, to hear about self-defense and death. Women tend to go about the process of gun ownership in a different manner, so whereas the guys in the course already have made the decision that they are capable of deadly force, women haven’t yet made that decision. They’re in the zone of gun ownership, concealed carry, self defense may be for me. I’m not sure. I need to get some training on it first. This is our thought process:
1. Learn to shoot. Take training classes.
2. Buy a firearm.
3. Realize we are capable of using it, usually because someone or something threatened our children or family.
Guys on the other hand, usually go:
1. Realize the world is dangerous, we need a defense, we are capable of using that defense.
2. Buy a gun.
3. Learn to shoot.
By throwing it all up in her face: death, kill, murder, blood, guts, gore; the CCW instructor skipped to Sister M’s step 3 and destroyed the natural evolution of thought that would have lead Sister M right where he was trying to force her to go. We as women can go through the typical steps to resolve the moral questions resolving self defense in a different order than our male counterparts, but we’ll get there and that’s what matters. If you can help us along on our way, great. But if you can’t, then keep quiet.
Of all the bad things to say to a woman who is just thinking, for the first time, about learning a little something about guns, one of the worst is: “Don’t even think about it, unless you are really sure you could use it against someone.”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard variations on this theme (“Are you really sure you could shoot someone?” “Are you prepared to kill?” “Don’t buy a gun unless you know you would be able to use it” etc.).
The reason this is a bad question is that it is often applied too early, like asking someone in the process of applying to medical school if she is really certain that she could do open heart surgery.
It is not the right question to apply to women who haven’t yet had enough training to enable them to make an informed decision about having guns for defense.
I don’t know when/if Sister M will be ready to explore responsible gun ownership, self defense, concealed carry again after her shock of an experience in her CCW course. But I am glad she is talking about her experiences because it will help me to mentor Sister K through the process by avoiding mistakes that were made in Sister M’s experiences. In the words of Sister K, talking about guns at church on Sunday was the last thing she expected to do, but I am glad we did!