Jaded16’s Note: Welcome Brittany-Ann of A Bookish Beamer people of the Olde Interwebes! Funny, smart and pissed off LadyPerson by choice, Brittany-Ann is an all-inclusive feminist, living in a conservative state, working toward making writing her lifestyle. She also writes for WLKY.com when not smoking camels or moderating ‘My Fault I’m Female‘.
I bought my first gun today. And it was an experience, let me tell you. I’d been wanting to for months, since the day I turned 21 and was legally able to purchase and carry a pistol, actually. But I’d put it off, for various reasons. Until one day, last week, something happened that reminded me why I wanted one in the first place: I found out a co-worker was being stalked. I found out because he showed up at work that night. That night, I broke company policy and texted a good friend that I wasn’t waiting any longer. That weekend, this past weekend, I was going to finally do it.
Later, when I told my brother and his best friend my intention, my brother laughed. “You don’t need a gun,” he said. What I said next I’m sure all of you know very well—this world is dangerous for women. Bad shit happens to women every minute, and largely, we depend on luck and circumstance to avoid it. But it never works. We all have our stories. I told my brother and his friend of a couple of my own experiences, just in the past few years. His friend was shocked. “Whoa,” he said, “that’s crazy.” Yes, yes it is. In both situations I was lucky, and circumstances allowed me to escape physically unscathed from both—no cars were coming so I could safely blow a red light to avoid being carjacked in one, and the other, my anger and raised fist was enough to scare off the guy who’d followed and harassed me to get me to come with him and his friends to “a party.”
Today, I bought my first gun. My good friend, mentioned above, drove seven hours to help me choose a weapon suited for my needs and pick out the additional equipment I needed, show me how to operate, disassemble, clean, and reassemble it, how to stand, how to hold it properly, told me what to do when it jammed, and even snuck spent casings in my magazine to mock a jam and drilled me relentlessly on how to react to it quickly. He made sure I had information on concealed carry permit classes, and made sure I knew everything that comes with carrying openly until then. He made a big sacrifice, and I’m grateful—because this is my safety, perhaps my life that we’re talking about here. And I’m not talking about shooting myself literally in the foot, though that’s a possibility, (A highly unlikely one—I’d like to think I’ve the presence of mind to avoid that!) I’m talking about having the ability to actually do something to actively protect and defend myself the next time something happens. And I’m quite confident that it will. World, dangerous, women, etc.
I was scared. I felt very intimidated. Guns are serious, deadly tools, and now I own one. It’s mine, and now a very big responsibility rests on my shoulders. My hands shook violently the first couple of magazines I shot at the range. (I have a massive ego. I told him it was the lack of breathing I was doing that he pointed out. But it was also because I was freaking out.) The more he relentlessly drilled me, “Get those rounds out faster! Smoothly squeeze the trigger! Slap, slide, shoot! It should be instinct!” the more I adjusted to the new label I’d bestowed upon myself: gun owner. As we left the range, I knew it changed me, but I had no idea just how much.
One of the things he’d picked out for me was a holster, and I’d tried it on in the store to see how it felt. Now, I wanted to see how it felt with my gun in it. I slid it in, and wow. My friend had always teased me about my lack of situational awareness. I thought he was silly—overreacting. I see what he means now. As a member of a vulnerable population, I know what it is to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Is that someone walking behind me? Better brace myself if it’s someone else coming to harass, grope, or attack me. Should I have come to watch this movie at a new friend’s apartment? Watch for the signs—dimming lights, seating proximity, excessive flirting. Yeah. If you’re a woman, you know what I’m talking about. But this one was different. I was walking with sincere confidence—knowing that the sight of my Ruger sticking out of my waistband would deter most from fucking with me, and if they did, I actually had the means to do something about it—other than look around for that luck and circumstance. That knowledge—that I could actually do something about it—made all the difference. It was such an empowering feeling, unlike anything I’d felt before. I had one of those giddy moments; I wanted to shout “I AM WOMAN. HEAR ME ROARRRRRR.” But you know, that ego. And, of course, my friend would never let me live that down.
I open carried all the way to the car. I open carried the whole ten minute drive back to town. I loved the feeling of my Ruger nestled up on my side. I looked down and enjoyed the way I’d adjusted my top so I wouldn’t inadvertently conceal my weapon before I am legally able to do so. I’ll admit it—I even felt a little sexy. Then we got to the china buffet we’d chosen for lunch. We got out of the car and my friend said, “I gotta ask. Loaded or unloaded?” Deer in headlights. “Unloaded. I didn’t reload after we finished at the range…” We stopped fifteen feet from the car. “Well, why are you carrying then? You’re just making yourself the first target should anything happen. Load it up or put it away.” Tbbblll. That was my bubble deflating. Dejected, I went back to the car and put my gun, holster and all, in the glove compartment. Like I said, he was relentless. But he was right.
Carriers can never forget, not for a moment, that huge responsibility on their shoulders. My allowance for giddiness ended at the range. I am fully capable of defending myself now, but in taking back that power for myself I also accepted that when I took that power back, I also took responsibility for the safety of others, too. I had to be very careful that any word, facial expression, or action I took could be interpreted differently now that I was doing them as not only a gun owner, but an open carrier of that gun. I had to be hyper-aware of my surroundings, even more so of the gun at my hip, what it represented, not only for me, but for anyone I might meet, and be sensitive to that. As I pulled the holster from my waistband, I remembered again that I could so easily take a life with that dangerous tool, and I must never forget it. As we were leaving the restaurant a little while later, my friend asked, “I didn’t rain on your parade earlier, did I? I mean, you could have reloaded.” (A respite from relentless! Wow! I’m joking. This is a seriously awesome friend I’m talking about here, and more than just because of this.) “A little,” I replied, “but you were right.” Soon, we got to my house, and he showed me how to disassemble my gun, what to clean with what, reassembled it, handed it to me, and asked for a cigarette. I bummed him one, and went to light up myself. “What are you doing? You have a gun to clean.” Relentless. My only retort was one of my trademark faces, and he chuckled as he enjoyed my cigarette, keeping a careful eye on my cleaning technique.
Hours later, I sit here, writing this. My hands are sore. I took apart and put back together my Ruger several times to get used to it, and practiced pulling back the slide. They’re sore, a little grimy, oily, and pinched in a few places, but it feels good. I still feel that acute self and situational awareness, but it’s so much different from the fear and paranoia that spurred what came before. The responsibility is something I will carry, respectfully, and I will ponder it often. But this responsibility? I’ll gladly take over the feeling of being the woman facing the violence and misogynist world alone any minute of the day. And this is just the beginning. I’ll feel those emotions—the fear, the empowerment, the giddiness, and the sobering power over and over again, for as long as I carry. I’ll experience more tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, for as long as I keep the label I bestowed on myself today: the feminist gun owner and carrier.
P.S. Are you in love with her as much as I am? As a person who gets freaked out by even thinking of guns, this is something you’d never get me to write or even think about. Even if you gave me all of Sylvia Plath’s unedited journals. And a unicorn. This is why I need more guest posters! That open guest posting link? Yes, it’s STILL there.