Coming Out of the Closet
A few weeks ago I met a woman who was very surprised to know someone “like me” would be a gun owner.
YUPPIES AND NAVY SEALS
My husband and I sat with several couples in an elegant and pleasant wedding reception.
At some point in the evening, one lady –“Victoria”- asked “Now…are the SEALS part of the Navy or the Marines? I can’t remember…”
Another lady responded, “I think they’re Navy, if I’m not mistaken.”
I chimed in. “Yes, they’re Navy” and proceeded with a breakdown of all the Special Forces teams. I’ll admit, I was a bit surprised at the detail coming out of my mouth…but not nearly as much as these couples staring at me. The conversation changed direction, as is wont to do at parties, but Victoria was still curious. She leaned forward and asked how someone “like me” would even know a network of Special Forces veterans. I had just met Victoria, so all she knew was that I was an attorney, a former L.A. County D.A. and Orange County business litigator, ensconced in a steel and glass ivory tower, far away from the commandos with painted faces saving the world. She and her European husband lived in L.A. and were connected to the entertainment industry – from what little I gathered. To answer her question, I told her about this blog and the new training classes led by Mike Pannone, for everyday women like her and I.
She was well educated, well spoken, and genuinely perplexed as she reconciled her image of me with my gun-speak. She then told me her background. As it turned out, she grew up with guns on her family’s ranch in California. Her brother and dad still hunt to this day, and she was a good shot but she loathed hunting and “that whole Duck Dynasty thing.” Guns and “the destruction those guns cause” made her furious.
What Victoria said was a familiar tune from my own circle of friends. They saw people who like or shoot guns as being xenophobic, backwards, and/or criminals. California - and other gun-unfriendly places like it- are not like Texas or Idaho where guns are more commonplace. The blanks in our minds about guns and gun owners are conveniently filled in by reality shows and movies. Without a counter-effort to rebut those images, even the educated and well-intentioned will accept those stereotypes.
Her surprise at me was no surprise, really. I understood it completely. I told her that I believed in education and choice: An education in the ownership and use of these deadly weapons and – based on that education - the choice to use or own one. Guns are not for everyone.
I told her about my anti-gun friend Julie, from Manhattan Beach wanted to make an informed opinion and took one of Pannone’s women’s classes. Julie turned out to be one of the most enthusiastic students. At the end of class, while everyone packed up, she reloaded as many high capacity magazines as she could, as fast as she could, eking out as much range time as she could.
Enjoying the simple mechanics of firing a gun at target practice made irrelevant any socio-political views. She still may never have a gun in her home but she did something she never expected: Enjoying the gun for the simple piece of machinery that it is.
I told her about my other friend, Lindsay, a young mother who hated guns and wanted nothing to do with her husband’s firearm that was locked in the safe. A girlfriend of hers with the same mentality faced an armed intruder in her home, in her “safe neighborhood.” In her struggle with the armed intruder, his gun fell to the floor. The girlfriend backed away from a gun she feared. The intruder picked it up and shot her dead. She left behind a husband and young children.
Lindsay herself vowed that would never happen to her family …but she had to overcome her own steep fear of guns. For weeks she fought shakes and cold sweats to make her way into the gun range and fire a shot.
As I write this blog post less than a year from her foray, Lindsay is now a certified NRA instructor and enters shooting competitions on the weekends. She is a different woman because of what she mastered.
VIKINGS, SAMURAIS AND RANCHERS
I told Victoria what Pannone told us about the women in Viking, Samurai, and rancher households held down the homestead when their men would leave for raids, wars, or cattle drives. They were expected to know how and when to use deadly force against bandits and intruders.
The expectations and lessons of the past should be no different with today’s women. Our instincts to defend and protect are the same. The dangers that threaten our homes and selves have not changed. She had heard about women buying guns in record numbers. Something is compelling these women to buy guns, I told her. And if I can help make available to them the best in training, then it was the right thing to do. She agreed.
Women should have the same access as men to relevant and effective firearms training. The women flocking to the training classes with Mike Pannone were coming from all corners and she was surprised at the breadth: Boston, Austin, and Oregon. These women, I told her, were white collar professionals, stay at home mothers, retirees, etc. and they all sought to tap into the value of a firearm.
COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET
My conversation with Victoria was to show that the “Duck Dynasty” image was not the Julie’s, the Lindsay’s, Viking women, Samurai daughters, etc. And it certainly wasn’t me or the women who were filling up Pannone’s classes today.
Those seeking security in knowing they can protect themselves and their homes cross all demographic lines. The fact that they choose a firearm to enable themselves is a personal choice. They understand protecting life is a moral obligation.
The women who feel the need and/or curiosity to arm themselves are driven by something far more instinctual and natural. There is no need to mute our gun ownership or muffle a desire to learn about firearms. There is no need to be a secret society. Our choosing of a weapon for protection and sport is borne out of something far more ancient than politics. We need to come out of the closet in with confidence and in numbers. That is the only way to stem the tide of social persecution against what is really an individual choice and an instinctual need. We are ambassadors of our own cause.