Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This is my Home

I love my home.  When I walk through my house at night, turning on all the outdoor lights and setting the house alarm, I check on my sleeping children before going to bed and think, "All is well, we are safe".  But what if we're not?  This is my home, and I've taken steps to keep it safe, but can I really promise my kids nothing bad can happen here?

I can't.  We have been robbed while we slept.  Our neighbor was held at gunpoint while she was robbed.  It is the thought of "What if?" that led me to do something I never thought I would.  I started considering buying a gun.

I believe in our Constitution and the rights granted us in our Amendments.  I believe in the right to bear arms but never thought I would exercise that right.  Not wanting to rush into anything, I began exploring the option of owning a gun and keeping it in my home, discovering the DNR's B.O.W. program (Becoming an Outdoors Woman) and finding a weekend class on obtaining a Concealed Pistol License.  Curious, I decided to see what it is all about.

Lee, Instructor Extraordinaire
The program was held this weekend, put on by the Great Lakes Outdoors Foundation.  The NRA-Licensed Instructors, Lee, Gary, and Nick, presented themselves from the very first moment as knowledgable and capable men.  The initial class time was fascinating as they spoke of the laws which allow American citizens to protect themselves, giving us every possible scenario of what is justifiable, and as important, what is not.  But throughout the class, I was nervously anticipating what would come next; learning how to shoot a gun.

All twenty-one women attending the class were told and shown, repeatedly, how to safely handle a gun, before we even walked outside to the shooting range.  I was extremely nervous.  Guns kill.  Handling one was a scary and unsettling thought.  I wanted to know as much as possible about handling a gun before I even touched one, and Lee and Gary quickly put some of my fears to rest.  What was coming next, though, was an experience I will never forget or regret.

Gary supervising ammunition selection and loading
Lee gave the command for Group 1 to step forward.  This was it.  I was about to load a gun and shoot at an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper.  The instructors had several guns for us to choose from, and I skipped the .22's and went straight to a .38 revolver.  Gary showed me how to load the gun with ammunition, all the while scanning with his eyes to make sure everyone had their gun pointed in a safe direction (down and front), and fingers off the trigger. I felt the weight of the gun, and the weight of the responsibility, in my hand.  Then I stepped up to shoot.

It was amazing!  In one moment, I was scared, focused, empowered, and courageous.  I emptied the chamber, ejected, and stepped back to look at the target.  My shots were all over the place, but I didn't care, I had done it!

Commence firing!
The rest of the weekend was a journey of self-discovery as I became more comfortable handling a weapon intended to kill.  Make no mistake, you do not own or point a gun with the intention of simply warning or injuring an assailant.  Lee and his guys made it very clear that, when justified, you shoot to stop an assault, plain and simple.  That means you shoot until an attacker can no longer hurt you.  You have to be prepared to shoot to kill.

It was all very heavy and serious stuff.  It is one thing to sit in a classroom and hear different scenarios in which you would be justified in protecting your self and your family from serious bodily harm, rape, or death.  It is a little harder to imagine yourself being capable of such action, but with the excellent course materials presented, you can begin to picture it.  Standing in front of a target, holding a loaded gun, makes it more real, but it all still stays in that context of "What if?"

I have to say, Lee and the guys are great.  The course material is not only very thorough, covering topics such as legalities, ethical responsibilities, potential situations, gun parts, handling a gun, different methods of carrying a weapon, and above everything, safety, safety, safety, but the delivery of the material was outstanding.  These men understand women and our fears.  They understand how vulnerable we can be as victims.  They also understand how strong we can be as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.  They showed us nothing less than respect and admiration for wanting to strengthen our homes and safety.  They made us laugh, addressed our fears, and taught us not to be ashamed or proud of our right to bear arms, but to simply consider discreetly exercising that right.
Nick looking on as the ladies choose their weapon

Throughout the weekend, they stressed the mentality of being a responsible gun owner.  They kept addressing the frame of mind required to aim a gun at an attacker, and they warned that adrenaline can alter that mentality.  It culminated in a powerful exercise at the end of the day, an exercise that left me and the other women with a clearer sense of whether each of us is capable of protecting our home and family.

This time, the targets would move.  The instructors stood behind us as, two gals at a time, we quickly approached the target, loaded our weapons as the instructors shouted in our ear from behind us, "Someone is coming!  Load your weapon!"  Hands shaking, I dropped five rounds into the chamber, and was required to shout, LOUDLY, "Stop!  I have a gun!  I've called 911!"  Nick was behind me yelling that he has a pizza for me, open the door, while I am shouting over him "NO!  Go AWAY!  I have a gun!  If you open the door I will shoot!"  Nick is yelling, I am yelling, my adrenaline is pumping, it is all very intense, then at Nick's signal from behind me, Lee activates the target and Nick is yelling "SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT!"  I shot all 5 bullets in rapid fire, then removed my finger from the trigger, ejected the casings, pointed the gun safely down and away.  It was then that I looked up at the target, an outline of a man.  All five bullets had hit center mass.

Because of the adrenaline rush, I was elated.  But I was also extremely sobered at the same time.  If that target had been a person, he'd be dead.

Wow.  Did I feel good about that?  Or scared out of my mind?  I knew, without a doubt, that if an attacker came at me in a parking lot, or entered my home, I now possessed the skill to stop him.  But could I really do it?

I will tell every woman I know to take this class.  They can either look on for the B.O.W. program, or for Lee's next scheduled class.  It is worth the time, worth the class fee, worth the experience.  Now that I have completed the course, I have the requirements necessary by law to apply for a Concealed Pistol License in the State of Michigan.  I am no longer afraid to hold a gun, load a gun, or shoot a gun.

But…I have a lot of thinking to do.  I need to talk to my husband, and then my kids, about everything I've learned.  I need to know how they feel about their wife and mother carrying a gun.  Most of all, I have to ask myself if I am capable of shooting to stop an attack.  Can I kill someone, however justified, and live with it?  Because if I can't, it would be incredibly irresponsible for me to own a gun.  If I won't shoot, my attacker will simply use my gun to shoot me.

Shooting from concealment.
These girls made it look easy, but it's not!
My family and close friends expect that I will now go right home and apply for a CPL, buy a gun, and start carrying.  I am not going to do that yet.  First, I am going to follow Lee and Gary's directive to create a safe room and a safety plan in my home for myself and my kids.  I am going to discuss the responsibilities and ramifications of owning a gun with my family.  And I am going to think long and hard about holding a gun and yelling "I have a gun and I will shoot".

There are currently 320,000 people in Michigan with a CPL.  That means that 320,000 people in this state are exercising their right to bear arms and are licensed to carry a concealed weapon.  As Lee demonstrated to us, the person standing in line behind you at the grocery store could very well have a loaded, holstered gun under his shirt, or in her purse, and you cannot know that by looking at them.  Do you know how many people with a CPL have committed an unjustified homicide in Michigan?  None. The law abiding citizens who pass the requirements to qualify for a CPL take that right seriously, and do not abuse it.  When a stranger knocks on your door, you won't know if he or she is concealing a gun, legally or not.  You won't know a stranger's intentions when you open the door.  But you should know what you will do if that stranger attacks you, or your family.

When someone knocks on my door, they may be planning to harm me in my home.  There is every chance that some day, "What if?" will become what is.  Am I willing to protect my family, or myself, in my home?  Are you?  Take this class.  Learn everything you can from Lee, Gary, and Nick.  Then ask yourself if you could shoot to stop an attack.  Ask yourself if you are truly safe in your home.