On a recent trip to Seattle for business, I had a chance to have lunch with the inimitable Kathy Jackson. As you might imagine, our conversation touched on all sorts of topics, including armed self-defense. At one point, I commented about how I think it’s important to encourage other women to become responsible for their own safety, but that it’s also important to let women come to that decision on their own and not be pushy about it.
Kathy said something which surprised me, but which on reflection I totally agree with. “I’d go farther than that,” she replied, “and say that I think it’s irresponsible to pressure women into making that decision.”
Though we didn’t talk in depth about Kathy’s reasons for feeling that way, I’d like to talk about the reasons why I wholeheartedly agree with her sentiment.
First of all, let me say that (as anyone who’s read my blog doubtless knows), I firmly believe in the right and the power of armed self-defense. However, I think there are at least a couple good reasons why a woman should be encouraged, but not pressured or forced, into making the choice to own her own safety:
Not everyone has the mindset to take a human life. Let’s be honest: As much as we may try to -tap-dance around the ugly reality, choosing to carry a firearm for self-defense means that someday, if all our other tools and tactics fail, we could have to use our firearms to end another human being’s life. We hope this won’t happen, we train our situational awareness and de-escalation skills to try to keep out of trouble’s way, but it could happen. We could have to kill someone. That’s just not a choice everyone is emotionally and spiritually capable of making.
Some people simply don’t have it within themselves to take another human life - and that’s okay. Really. I’m absolutely not passing judgment on folks who fall into this category. Our society is relatively peaceful (compared to other times in history) in part because most people don’t want to kill. Why should we force them into making that choice if their consciences or spiritual understanding deem it antithetical to who and what they are? We don’t want others deciding for us whether we can carry guns, and it’s not fair to expect that others should let us decide for them whether they should.
Furthermore, someone who has been pressured into carrying a gun but who doesn’t have the mindset and training to use it has actually made herself (and probably those around her) less safe, not more. For one thing, if she’s not carrying that gun willingly, she’s much more likely to hesitate when she’s faced with danger. And hesitation can be painful or even fatal. For another, a woman who’s not prepared with the training and knowledge of just what a gun will and won’t do may be tempted to view it as a “magic talisman” that will ward off all evil. With this mindset, she’s surely less likely to see danger coming or to get out of its path. And Condition White awareness, fed by the false sense of security provided by her magic talisman, can assuredly be fatal.
There’s one more reason I think we have to tread carefully about how we encourage women to carry guns, and this one applies especially to women who have been victims of crime. I was a rape crisis advocate for seven years, and the recommendation “next time, carry pepper spray/a knife/a gun” was one of the most common pieces of advice I heard people give rape victims. Here’s the trouble: Violent crime, and especially rape, is profoundly, enormously, unspeakably disempowering. When I was raped, the sense of absolute, total helplessness I experienced during the attacks was far more traumatizing than any of the physical stuff that happened to my body. Crime victims need love, encouragement, and safety, but they also need the opportunity to regain their sense of self-determination. And pressuring them to carry a gun, with all the legal, social and emotional consequences that go along with having to use that gun, can easily be perceived as yet one more kind of trauma.
Does this mean we shouldn’t encourage women to become armed and self-sufficient? Should we refuse to teach women who have been victims of crime? Of course not. I know many women who have found enormous power and healing and self-reliance in choosing to learn to own their own safety. But that’s the key: it has to be their choice.
For those who want to learn to shoot, we can be powerful ambassadors of our sport and our lifestyle. For those seeking to help themselves and their loved ones stay safe in an uncertain world, we can be there to offer tools, knowledge, and encouragement. We can talk about the choices we’ve made and the reasons we’ve made them. We can share what we know, what we think, what we feel. We can practice what we preach. But I agree with Kathy: If someone isn’t willing, or isn’t ready, to go down that road with us, it’s irresponsible for us to force them.
What do you think? What experiences brought you into the gun community, and who encouraged – or hindered – your journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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