When I was a little girl, we lived in the country. My Dad was determined to do a good job in terms of teaching me all that women, and most men, should know how to do, in a pinch. One of the things he wished to teach me was to properly use a rifle. "NOOOO !" I would say to my father. "Daddee, I'm a girl. I don't need to learn things like that." I didn't like the boom guns made and I was pretty inflexible about that. So, I grew up never having touched a firearm, much less having shot, taken one down, cleaned one, or reassembled one. I wouldn't have known how to remove a magazine from one, had my life depended upon it.
Years passed. I became a registered nurse and occasionally saw the handiwork of guns and I can't say it changed my mind much about them. After all, I was embroiled in the very honorable work of saving lives. Why would I want an object that could take one ? More time passed, I married and went on to have four biological children and my days were busy ones. My boys liked toy guns and I did nothing to stop this. Boys are attracted to guns, and I saw nothing wrong with play so long as they understood it was play. Eventually, the pretty suburbs gave way to break-ins, and when Daniel was a baby, there was an attempted abduction of him from a Chesterfield, Virginia McDonalds.
The following year we moved to the country. We brought our children all of the rural benefits of our youth and more. My husband had a rifle on our farm, but it looked to me just as large and as forboding as my father's rifle had, when I was eight. A few trespassers and some other problems later, I realized that my husband's rifle locked in a safe, might not help us, if something happened here on the farm. That year, for Christmas, one of his brothers gave me a rifle. I still did not like the boom, but I had an instrument by which I could defend the farm from rabid or large animals when needed. I think I would have liked to have enjoyed all the kids, and Daniel as well, and never have given it another thought, but I realized something else. The phenomenon of home invasion began to hit the news. People with security systems, like us, were having people break in while they were home ! Some had even been murdered. Our sheriff had a signficant travel time across the county, and that's if he weren't already involved in something else ! I realized that if ever something happened on our farm, that likely my husband would be at work. My rifle, was also locked up, and it was not as portable or as quickly accessible as a handgun might have been. I didn't want to leave a rifle out for my use, only to have it stolen by an invader. My father and my husband never owned a handgun. However, one of my female friends was a former police officer. She clearly thought that one of a mother's roles in the country was to protect her children while her husband was working, and she believed that proper training and ownership of a handgun was one of the most expedient ways to do this. While I worked on hiring someone to reinforce door frames on our farmhouse,my friends worked on target shooting, and on buying their own handguns.
Finally, when Daniel was about ten, the tables turned for me. I had always been concerned that with three sons and one daughter, that the chance of a firearms accident in the home, was greater than the chance of an attack during a break in, in which a handgun would need to be used. When Daniel was ten, going on twenty, I decided that the benefit of having a handgun and then ultimately teaching its proper safe use to each of my children outweighed at least at that point, the chance of a careless accident. None of my children were careless. At the very least, my children would know how a semi-automatic handgun and a revolver worked, so that if ever they were in the presence of someone who was using one unsafely or improperly then they would know this. I bought my first handgun, and took lessons with a certified instructor. The sun was very bright on that first day at the outdoor range, and I wasn't very good. This surprised me, because I had been so talented at archery, I thought it would somehow carry over. I misunderstood the directions as to how to line up the sights, and I kept shooting low and sometimes missing the backstopped target entirely. Still, this was something I needed to do to potentially protect my family. I also had significant trouble with flinching. Each time the weapon would fire, even with ear protection, I would respond slightly and this would change my position enough to disrupt the line up of my next shot slightly. Psychologically, this was hard for me. All those years of helping people, and helping them heal, were hard to set aside in order to use a device, a simply tool which could devastate a human body, even when our own lives might depend upon it. We also put considerable effort into training for a scenario where someone attempted to rush me and take my weapon while I had it aimed toward them. This is important, because a handgun taken from you, can often be used on you. I could have taken the gun home, locked it in a gun safe, and at that point, relied on it for its simple charm value as a deterrent, but I didn't. I kept trying, and I kept practicing. Next, my eldest son, who was 21, took lessons along with mine. He was instantly mechanical with the weapon, and was an incredible shot. He didn't fear the sound, and he made me very proud. I almost wished he could take a weapon to his dangerous urban college, but firearms are banned at Virginia universities for all but active law enforcement. I continued to plod along, finding that using one set of ear plugs and then headphones on top helped with the flinching, along with some practice dry-firing.
Daniel very much wanted to go with us and learn to target shoot. He liked my guns, and could not wait to learn about them. However, I told him that I thought age 14 was the age that we would choose to begin his training, and the training of our son Matt. Since Daniel passed before thirteen, he never had that opportunity, and I am sad that this was one of the things he never had the opportunity to try while he was here on Earth.
In the last few years, a number of the members of our family completed the training in order to carry a concealed weapon. The last one of us was actually my husband, who had been comfortable with having a rifle, all that time. By far, the most skilled of our group is still my eldest son. He has used it a few times, mostly on the farm, to save our livestock and pets from rabid wild animals from the large nearby forests. I continue to train and I am a far better shot than I was in the beginning all those years ago. One by one, our family is training in order to safely manage the weapons which are necessary not only for farm life, but to prevent the tragedy which could occur in the event of a home invasion. I hope we never have to use our weapons on a drug crazed home invader, but if we do, I will know what I need to do. I think my father would be proud. Sorry it took so long, Dad.
I do not advocate or recommend that those in the throes of bereavement newly obtain handguns or rifles. In fact, when my mother in law died suddenly, we temporarily removed the firearms from their home until we believed that the remaining members of the family were managing well. Those in new bereavement should receive all the support which is necessary.
However, bereavement is a lifelong process, and your loved one who has passed would wish you to be able to defend yourself in your home, should a home invasion occur.
Please make careful and carefully considered choices with regard to firearms and those in your home.