As she walked past me in the grocery aisle, she made sure to shake her head in disdain. My offense? Having the A Girl & A Gun logo on my face mask.
Later, at home, I talked with my kids about the experience and asked if they knew why Mommy was gone for the past week at a firearms course out of state, and why I spend so much time teaching the safe use and storage of firearms.
“To protect us,” they both responded, but my daughter was confused by the interaction. She didn’t understand why anyone would judge me for trying to help other people. “Maybe she was just confused,” she said, giving the woman the benefit of the doubt.
In our home we have continuous conversations about personal safety and protection, and we have discussed that many people are feeling angry or vulnerable during the pandemic because of employment or unemployment stress, food shortages, race relations, and social distancing. My kids understand that we have firearms not because we are fearful, but to protect our family.
Because I’m a firearms instructor and have a lot of professional relationships in the firearms industry, I often wear gun-branded clothing. People often stop me and ask how they can participate with A Girl & A Gun. Even just giving my email address to the Internet provider over the phone can prompt a conversation about where that call center rep can find local training.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, “May’s adjusted NICS background check figures are the highest on record for any May since record-keeping began on point-of-sale instant background checks.” Additionally, the NSSF’s survey of buyers reflected that 40% are first-time buyers, and 40% of those are women of which a vast majority are buying handguns for personal protection.
The disdain against firearms in the media is nothing new, but it is perplexing to me because in my professional life they are not a sign of weakness or fear. In my work, firearms are empowering and a lifestyle in which safety is paramount. There are many nationally recognized programs in the industry that teach gun safety and responsibility, including programs for child education as well as suicide prevention. We always follow safety protocols because we want our communities to be safe. Our firearms are not a political statement.
Over the last few weeks, my colleagues and I have been inundated with requests for firearms training. Many of us are doing three or more lessons or classes per day — and we love it! We welcome all of the new gun owners to learn how to be safe and proficient. We also welcome those who have “been shooting their whole lives” to attend our events to learn formal protocols and additional skillsets.
We are in such an unprecedented time. Anxiety in the community is palpable. As Americans, we weathered crises in the past. And as in those moments in history, we will get through this together. But to do that we cannot be divided by contempt and misinformation.
My children know that being educated on the safe use and storage of a firearm is one step that they can take to protect themselves, our family, and our community from being a victim of violence.
I carry a firearm to protect myself and my family. I teach gun safety so that you can protect yourself and your family. Getting training is an act of love. It is being a good citizen. Please don’t mock me for making the decision to protect myself.
Note: The photo above is not me; it is Karen Cose, firearms instructor and Facilitator of the Sierra Foothills California Chapter of A Girl & A Gun. I chose it because it is a beautiful photo of her in the same face mask. There are like-minded women instructors at more than 200 ranges nationwide. Find firearms training near you at AGirlandAGun.org/chapters/.