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Is it just paranoia?

When people find out that I carry a gun most of the time, they’re often curious.  What would prompt a woman to do something like that? Because it sounds a little odd, many people conclude that an armed woman must live in constant fear.

Rather the opposite, actually. The account below was written several years ago, but the sentiments in it are no less true today.  Despite the title, it really isn’t about why I started carrying a gun full-time, but about why I keep doing so.

Carrying a gun can be uncomfortable. The gun literally and figuratively gets in the way of some activities. There is a constant and slightly uncomfortable awareness that the folks around me would be unhappy with me if they knew I had a gun under my outer clothing. Nevertheless, I continue to carry almost all day, almost every day.

Last week, I went to pick up two of my children from summer camp, and drop another two off at the same camp for the next session. The camp is about 3 hours from my house, in a rural area. The road we travel to get there is a two-lane highway, scenic and beautiful. And we were traveling in broad daylight.

Before I left the house, I put my gun on.

Did I expect any trouble? Nope. I just wear it as a matter of course. It’s what I ordinarily do and so that’s what I did on this ordinary day.

After dropping one set of kids off and picking up the next set, the kids and I wandered down to the beach. We walked along a nearly empty boardwalk and enjoyed the sun and the crisp breeze. Yes, I still had my gun on. I didn’t leave it in the car simply because I expected no trouble. I carried it, because that’s what I always do.

Because we were enjoying ourselves, we stayed at the beach a bit longer than I had originally intended, and so it was nearly sunset before we got back in the car for the ride home. We got back in the car and I noticed the car needed fuel, so we stopped at the gas station. There were other people fueling up, and I did my standard observant glance around the station before I stepped out of the car and filled the tank. Got back in the car … and the car didn’t want to start.

Hmph.

My sons and I push-started the cruddy little car and I mumbled a few choice comments under my breath. The car was going, and sounded all right, but the ride home was going to take about 3 hours. We’d piddled around at the beach so that it would be full dark before we arrived home. This particular stretch of road is notorious for its lack of cell service. Was the car reliable enough to drive down the deserted stretch of road? Should I risk it? If I didn’t risk it, what would I do instead? There were no service shops open in this almost nonexistent town on a Saturday night, nor were there likely to be the next day.

I know nothing about engines (hey, that’s what God made mechanics for!) and had no idea what was wrong. Maybe I’d left the headlights on while we were walking the boardwalk? If so, driving for awhile would take care of the problem.  The car really did sound okay once it started up, and I couldn’t think of any really great alternative plans.

So we started back on that empty deserted stretch of road. And of course, a few miles down the road, the car died (fiddlesticks and other comments). So there I was, a woman alone with two young boys, with no cell phone, on a deserted stretch of two lane highway just before dark.

Was I worried? About the car, yes. But I wasn’t worried about our physical safety. I knew I had both the training and the tools to protect myself and my children even in the unlikely event that a human predator came along.

Shortly after the car died, another car pulled over and the man driving it asked if we needed help. Was I worried about his intentions? Nope, I was relieved to see him. I didn’t have to worry about him or what he might do, because I knew I could protect myself if he turned out not to be the good Samaritan he appeared to be. Having the means to defend myself allowed me to be friendly and confident in talking to a stranger in what could have been dangerous circumstances. So I gave him the phone number for AAA and asked him to call them for me. He said, “All right, I’ll do that — and I’ll come back and let you know what they said so you’ll know if I got ahold of them okay.” Nice guy.

Fifteen minutes later, the man returned, handed us three cold Cokes, and told me AAA was on the way. The kids and I thanked him profusely.

An hour after that, I was still sitting on the side of the road, waiting for my tow truck. The boys and I had run out of things to talk about. I was bored, a little worried that AAA had forgotten us, and we were all getting hungry and sleepy. Finally, the tow truck showed up — a greasy driver who talked a mile a minute. Of course he was greasy, that’s his job. But a woman alone on a deserted country road knows in her bones that the tow truck guy could be a rapist of opportunity. Did I worry about that? Not a bit. I knew I had the means to take care of myself and my kids if I needed to. Because I had that confidence, I was able to be friendly and forthright.

Eventually, the whole situation worked itself out, as these things do. Nobody offered me the slightest violence and because I was calmly confident of my ability to take care of it if they did, I was able to be outgoing and friendly rather than frightened or churlishly suspicious in dealing with other people, even in what I considered to be risky circumstances.

Although the stereotype is that gun owners are after some sort of a “power rush,” I never have felt super-powerful or invincible when carrying a gun, nor anything remotely like that. Instead, in a low-key sort of way, I simply feel confident that I am equipped to handle an unpleasant or even deadly situation if I really need to do so. Because I know I could cope with the worst that could happen, I am free to go about my regular business without a lot of that low-level, back-of-the-mind feeling of vulnerability that most women experience on some level in their daily lives (especially when traveling though big cities, or in deserted areas after dark). When I first began carrying, I really liked having that feeling of calm confidence which came from being prepared to cope with the worst life could possibly throw at me, and I wanted to keep feeling it.

And that is why I carry a gun all the time.