My Best Shot
When it comes to 99.999% of things, I am a pretty liberal person. Taxes, immigration, women’s rights, voting reform, you name it… Except, maybe, when it comes to gun ownership. In that one respect, I am probably best labeled a “moderate liberal.” I am all for heavy regulation and proper, responsible gun ownership. Bring on the background checks!
I really like target practice. I like learning about guns, about how to shoot properly, and I love the absolutely intense focus it requires. I go with my uncle Curt, and often my cousin, Mark, and it’s great.
I was 14 when I first went to the range with my uncle. He has incredible patience when teaching, and like any good gun owner, safety is the biggest concern. There was never a question about that. My maternal side has a fiercely strong sense of caring for and protecting one another, an attitude I thought was common until I met so many people from families who weren’t like mine.
My family is very concerned for my safety at work. I am, too. My store has been robbed at gunpoint before, and four times a week, I’m there alone at night for as much as nine hours. The summer means a lot more traffic, and the risk level rises along with it.
One night a few weeks ago, I was in the back of the L-shaped stock room when I turned around at the sound of a man’s voice. I was pinned between shelves of motor oil and Icee cups, staring at a stranger who was a little bit bigger than I am. He had reddish hair, not unlike my uncle, but was missing most of his teeth, causing him to slur his words a bit while he angrily ranted into his cell phone. Most of you know that I have a mild case of PTSD, and in that moment, my anxiety was immense. My heart screamed in my ears. I couldn’t move. I tried to tell myself to not jump to the worst, but in that moment, I could have peed myself. Once I remembered how to talk, I found out that he was part of an outside maintenance crew that was supposed to strip and wax the floors that night and no one had told me in advance.
But what if that hadn’t been the case? He wasn’t too much bigger than I am, and I weigh more than my appearance indicates, so I would have had at least a shred of a chance. I am stronger than my flabby batwinged arms suggest because there is muscle under there – I really wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of my punches. But what if? What if it wasn’t a fair fight? My chances of escape were slim to none. There are no cameras there and I didn’t have my phone on me. I shook it off and told myself that I was overreacting because of my PTSD.
But then I argue with myself: the store has been robbed before… Women are more frequently victims… There is a reason that my instincts tell me to wear baggier clothes, not do my hair and makeup, turn off the radio when I’m there alone, and always look over my shoulder.
Yesterday, my uncle offered to help me get the proper equipment, training, and license for a concealed carry. It’s legal in Illinois, and when it was legalized, I hated the idea. I didn’t see how it was helpful. I hate the idea of people walking around all day with guns strapped to them like this is the Gaza Strip. I have never, by any stretch of the imagination, considered myself a “gun enthusiast.”
“You have to decide before you ever start the process if you are willing to defend yourself if you need to,” he said. He isn’t really trying to push me into it. He knows that he and I differ on guns and gun ownership. He wants me to think about it and let him know.
I am thinking about it, and I end up going in circles around two points: I am, in most cases, a pacifist, but in cases of very immediate, individual threat (like someone pointing a gun at me), I have no real problem with self defense. Now, it takes that level of threat for me to feel there is justification – random road rage or furious argument is not going to do it.
I hate that my job puts me in such a vulnerable situation.
Since it has always been a matter of family time and a paper target hobby, I’ve never seen any conflict between gun practice and my faith. Considering the possibility of using a gun in actual, real life self defense is something else. Jesus was the ultimate pacifist. I can’t ignore that. At the same time, there are tons of scriptural examples of people defending themselves. I am not entirely convinced that God would damn me if I had to defend myself. Could I? Would I?
A very big, very human part of me says yes. I don’t want to die, or end up with a bullet through some vital organ. It sounds silly, but if it was for a better reason than $300 from the gas station till, dying would sound more appealing. “Oh Cindy, she was killed when she took a bullet that would have killed this baby who grew up to cure cancer” is one thing, but “oh Cindy, she was killed for $217 and 14 cartons of cigarettes” is entirely different.
I know people in many countries work jobs like mine and don’t have concealed carry, but their chances of encountering a criminal with a gun are much lower.
I’m not saying I’m going to do it. I’m not saying I won’t. I’m just saying that the lines get much hazier when the circumstances change.
I hate living in a world where this is something I even have to consider.