Guns Make Me Feel Powerful

Today there is no escaping the topic of guns, and there is no ignoring the grief and anger we all feel about what happened in Vegas. The thoughts and emotions are swirling in my mind, but I have had all I can handle of social media arguments, so I came here. There are a lot of people who frame this as anti-gun liberals vs. pro-gun conservatives, but that is a narrative we have been fed. We can agree that we want to be able to send our kids to school or attend a concert without fear of death. There is more we agree on than disagree. I am all for strict regulation of firearms, even though I have owned guns for about 20 years and credit them for a lot of my independence and even shaping the woman I have become. I genuinely empathize with people who don't want to give up their guns.

When I was a young girl, my dad took me out to the Arizona desert, handed me a .22 caliber gun then showed me how to blow up melons and knock empty cans from rocks. It was fun! Holding a gun in my hand, and hearing the “TING” of the bullet hitting the cans and seeing the melons burst when I pulled the trigger made me feel powerful. A love of shooting was born. In the coming years, other father figures taught me about guns, gun safety, and took me to practice at the range. I bought my first 9mm Sig Sauer pistol when I was 18 years old. Throughout my 20’s and into my 30’s it was rare to find me without a gun. I even got the nickname “gun-toting Tatum” by some girlfriends.

When I would mountain bike deep into the woods, take solo road trips across the country, attend public events, or dinner or a date or church… it was always on me. Since I rarely carry a purse, there was often a .357 tucked into the back of my pants or a .380 in a “coin purse” in my hand along with my phone and keys. This may sound crazy to people who don’t carry a gun, but once you begin, it can feel like something is missing when you leave home without it. If you’ve ever left home without your cell phone, it is a similar feeling.

The thing is, I knew that I would never ever use it unless my life or someone else’s was in grave danger. And, more importantly, I knew that if I did use it, I was skilled enough to do so and not simply make a bad situation worse.

Part of what makes me feel powerful when shooting a gun is that I’m really damn good at it. I’ve been shooting handguns as a hobby since I was young, and trained soldiers to shoot rifles in the Army. My first year in the military I was awarded the “Hawkeye” title for hitting 40 out of 40 targets with an M-16. The sergeant next to me said that he had been trying to do that for over 20 years. I never saw anyone else do it in my subsequent 8.

Shooting has given me confidence. Perhaps even a bit of a chip on my shoulder. It makes me feel like a badass to know that I can pick up almost any gun and be good at it when I know that most people feel intimidated.

However, in recent years, guns have become much less entertaining, and I feel more like part of the problem rather than the solution. All of the lines I used to believe like, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and “it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun” just aren’t adding up anymore. The more mass shootings that happen, and accidental deaths from kids getting ahold of their parent’s firearms, it is hard to find any "fun" in guns. I no longer get enjoyment out of something that causes so much destruction and pain.

In fact, come to think of it, my first experience with guns wasn’t actually my dad taking me to shoot, it was a 4th-grade boy climbing his parent’s bookshelf to show me where they hid their loaded handgun. The second memory was when our childhood neighbor got shot in the throat and killed by his friend showing off his dad’s gun.

This is not about being pro-gun or anti-gun. I personally have enjoyed being a gun owner. It has been gratifying and empowering. But, this is not about me, or any single individual. We need to take a collective step back and look at the reality, the empirical evidence, and make informed decisions based on what is best for our society. What’s safest for our kids? What kind of world do we want to leave behind?

The founding fathers did, in fact, say that we have a right to bear arms (though probably meaning in the context of a “well-regulated militia” not inexperienced private citizens). However, they did not have crystal balls into the future and never could have imagined what the “right to bear arms” would look like in 2017. As rational men who loved this country, I would like to think that they would have used common sense and put more emphasis on that “well-regulated” part of the II Amendment. We have overridden other statements by the founding fathers because they were no longer relevant in our culture or deemed immoral -- it is time that we have this conversation.