One of the things that most bothered me when I was a new gun owner was this idea I had that all my friends were judging me for it. Maybe it’s easier for new shooters now, since so many more women own guns than they did back then, and because so many more states have good concealed carry laws than they did back then. Or maybe not; some social situations never seem to change.
Anyway, I had this feeling that all my friends would hate me if they found out that I liked to shoot. Even though it later turned out that many of my friends were completely supportive of the whole thing, some weren’t. So my fears weren’t completely groundless.
Not too long after I started writing about my armed lifestyle, a friend and I were taking a road trip together. We hadn’t really talked about it much, but I knew she knew about my firearms because she’d seen one of my articles in a magazine at my house.
As we got into the car, she said — did I hear a note of scorn in her voice? — “I expect you’re carrying your gun, huh?”
Well, yes. I was. But it wasn’t something I really wanted to advertise. On the other hand, we were going to be spending three days together, and … I’m not all that fast at thinking on my feet. So I just nodded.
She nodded back and started the car. Didn’t say anything else. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe it would be okay.
A few miles later, I was looking out the window when she suddenly asked, “So who are you going to shoot?”
“Uh, what?” Maybe I didn’t hear that.
“I said, ‘Who are you going to shoot?'”
“Shoot?” Maybe if I play dumb, she’ll drop it.
“Yeah, shoot. That’s what guns are for, right? Shooting people. So who are you going to shoot?”
Oh boy. This is awkward. “Nobody, I hope.”
Silence. Was she rolling her eyes? I couldn’t tell. She was driving, after all. We both kind of stopped talking for awhile. I was worried that I was about to lose a friend. And … well, we were about to spend three days together in the car. That’s a lot of awkward silences to fill!
Maybe ten or fifteen minutes later, after I’d decided that she probably wouldn’t pursue it after all, my friend kind of sighed. Then she said, “Kathy, I really do want to know. You carry a gun. You have to have a reason to carry it, and the only thing I can think is that you’re carrying it because you’re going to shoot someone. So — who are you going to shoot? And why?”
And at that point, I realized that what I had felt as her complaining or judging was actually just … looking for information. In a really awkward and socially scary way. The conversation that followed was really good, and very thoughtful. We talked about guns, yes, but we also talked about husbands and children, about safety and life choices, about morals and ethics and law.
That wasn’t the first time I had an initially-awkward conversation with a friend about guns. Nor the last, by any means! But it was maybe the first time I realized that my feelings (of defensiveness about my choices) were getting in the way of helping my friends make some smart choices of their own. That’s when I decided that I’d figure out some good ways to answer some common but awkward questions, and maybe even write those answers down so I could remember to use them when someone asked. 1
My first answer to my friend’s question, about who I might shoot, was deeply true. Nobody, I hope! But the longer answer is that I’m willing to use the gun to defend myself if I’m ever in a situation where there’s an immediate, otherwise unavoidable danger of death or grave bodily harm to an innocent person. There’s a world of great conversations (and some important legal concepts) tucked into that one brief sentence. So much information that people really want and need to know. So much deepening of friendships in exploring the ideas there.
But I had to be brave and step past my own social fears before any of those great conversations could happen.
- This website came about partly because of that decision. ↩