When I was growing up, I had to pass by my grandfather's gun cabinet every day, many times a day, because it was at the bottom of the stairs and my room was at the top. In that cabinet was all of my grandpa's hunting gear, rifles, and ammunition... and I could have cared less. It was unlocked, but we never touched his stuff or tried to fire the guns ourselves.
One day, my grandpa did take my sister and me out to shoot his shotgun, but I remember that the kick back from that hurt my shoulder so bad that I lost any interest in ever trying to fire it again.
When grandpa died, we sold his guns - something I now regret.
I have spent the rest of my adult life without having a firearm in the house, even though we live in what could affectionately be called, "the hood." There have been a few incidents with some of my neighbors, and even some of the neighbor kids have turned to crime. The boy across the street just got out of prison after serving time for armed robbery, and a boy down the street died a few years ago attempting an armed robbery. Both of those guys used to play ball with my boys in the summer time.
One time my sister was visiting when a man walked right through the front door and offered to trim my hedges, with my hedge clippers, which he was holding. I walked right up to him, took back my clippers and asked him to leave. My sister was stunned and I guess I should have been scared, but I wasn't - maybe because I had seen that man before and knew he was really only after a little money.
Gun violence was in the neighborhood, but I still didn't feel the need to have a gun. My oldest son Calvin felt differently. As soon as he could legally buy a shot gun at at 18, he did. Then when he was 21 he bought a handgun and got his concealed carry permit. He said that owning the weapons just made him feel safer, even if it was a hassle sometimes.
I've thought about it over the past few years as well, especially since the current administration seemed to be challenging our constitutional right to have a gun on a regular basis. I just needed something to motivate me to actually go out and get one.
So last year, I went with Calvin to a gun show, and I had it in my mind that if I bought a handgun, we would have something to "bond" over -sort of a shared mother-son activity. Calvin helped me pick out a gun that I felt comfortable with, we bought ammo, and then we went shooting a couple of times so that I could get the feel of firing the gun.
Then whenever he came over, Calvin would drill me on loading the gun and taking off the safety, and then all the procedures to take the ammo out of the gun. I'd let him show me and then I'd run through the procedures a few times, but I never practiced. Every time Calvin came over he would have to show me all over again.
Then he got married and moved eight hours away and I felt that my plan to have something in common with my oldest son was sort of a misfire on its own. My gun was safely locked and put away safely somewhere upstairs where no one could get at it quickly, even me.
But I started to think about things differently of late. This New Jersey home invasion in 2013 was shocking. Not only was the woman robbed, but her assailant seemed to take a lot of pleasure out beating her as well. I remember watching this on Youtube and thinking to myself, if she only had her handgun somewhere close, it would have been a different story.
Then of course more recently there was the death of Amanda Blackburn, the pastor's wife who was assaulted in a home invasion before she was raped and then shot in the back of the head. Her murderer was reportedly 18 years old. Again, if she had had a handgun at the ready, this might have been a different story too.
Calvin came home for Thanksgiving and showed me again how to load my weapon and how to safely disarm it. This time, I paid very close attention because I won't see him again for a long time. I've practiced every day since he left and I'm hoping to find a gun class after the holidays. We also taught Noah how to load and handle the gun in case he needs to in an emergency.
But most importantly, it's not locked in a hard-to-get to place any more. I'm keeping it with me during the day because I can legally do so within my own home. I pray that I never have to use it, but if I ever do, I feel prepared.