How far should I go to protect my family?

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Image courtesy Chicks With Guns
One of the weirdest conversations I’ve had as an adult was the time my husband and I talked about safety in our new home. There had been a few home invasions in the area, where men had entered houses at night and demanded money or delivered pistolwhippings. Our conversation wandered from deadbolt locks to mace to, “What if we got a gun?”

We’d never discussed gun ownership before — and I don’t have many opinions on guns, other than I like shooting my dad’s .22 at hay bales. So my head reeled a little bit when hub said, “I’m just not sure I feel comfortable with what owning a gun for self-defense would mean — that I’d have to accept that any time I might pull the trigger I might kill another person.”

The question just rolled around in my head for a few months, until Lindsay McCrum’s book Chicks with Guns came out. It’s a collection of portraits of American women and their firearms, and it’s…diverse.

To have a gun or not to have a gun is a strange conversational space for a woman. Women with firearms are still sort of a novelty — even in the Midwest, I see at least one human interest story a year where a local news crew talks about some lady who likes to hunt. The thought! At the same time, one of the few people I know who owns a gun is my lady housemate (even though she doesn’t keep it here).

In popular culture, the talk about women and guns often centers on how we should use “less-lethal” methods to protect ourselves because our weapons are likely to be turned against us, and that’s sometimes as deep as it goes.

That conversation happened months ago, and I’m still not sure if I’m comfortable with owning a gun. Of course, I know deep down in the heat of a scary moment I might feel differently, but right now I don’t know if I trust myself enough to make the right decisions when adrenaline is pumping and fight or flight decisions are happening. I don’t know if I could own a gun, knowing that I might kill somebody with it, whether they “deserved” it or not.

Image courtesy Chicks With Guns

For now, we’ve decided we’d rather not have a gun in our house because we aren’t ready for that commitment. Have you had this conversation at home? Did you have any weird adult realizations when you did? Dish.

Comments on How far should I go to protect my family?

  1. The only conversation my husband and I had was what kind of gun do you want. I personally own 7 guns 4 of which are hand guns. I have one in my night stand and one in my car at all times. I don’t like the idea of taking someone elses life but if it comes down to me or them I’m fighting for me. My husband owns his own security business and we have a state of the art security alarm in our house but I still feel more secure knowing that I have my gun and I can defend myself if it comes down to it. I’m not one of those women who like to hunt but I do enjoy shooting my gun. But for those of you who do not like guns and don’t want them in your house I strongly urge you to look into a home security system.

  2. I grew up with guns. My father is a gun collector and hunter and we lived in a very rural area. His philosophy was that if us kids knew what a gun was and what it could do, we would not be tempted to play with it as though it were a toy. I am comfortable with firearms and have been since an early age. Even my sweet southern Mama knows how to fire a 12 gauge. I have a healthy respect for what a gun can do, and I am a straight up dead shot, have been since my teen years.

    For years, I lived without a gun, simply because I was living on college campuses where they were forbidden and in apartment complexes where I feared firing a gun might be dangerous. Then I was married to a man who just did. not. need. access to firearms because frankly he was too mentally unstable. Even as a divorced lady living alone in a fairly bad neighborhood, I never bothered to arm myself because I didn’t think I needed to.

    Then I moved out into the country with my beloved, and one night while he was at work late and my car was in the shop, two shady characters came up at dusk and knocked on the door of what they assumed was my empty house. I have not lived a sheltered life, and I know what two men with hoodies pulled down to their noses want when they knock on the door that time of night. It was near Christmas, and there had been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood. They were not there to sell me Girl Scout cookies. I spoke to them through the locked door and they were visibly shocked to find someone home. I then proceeded to watch them, out my bedroom window, stand in my driveway and have an animated conversation which no doubt in my mind consisted of whether or not it would be worth their while to break in the house with me inside. I knew there was a gun in the house and I knew where it was, so I loaded it and I waited. Eventually they decided to move on. If they had attempted to break into my home, I would have assumed they were coming in to do me harm, and I would have killed them. No shooting to wound or incapacitate, sorry, because I am not trying to spend the rest of my life working to support someone who was trying to break into my home and hurt me, and unfortunately we DO live in a world where injured burglars have successfully sued the homeowner who injured them.

    Where we live, there is a lot of crime. Not too long ago, some burglars broke into a home where an 11 year old girl was home sick from school, and when she surprised them they pistol whipped her to death. One of them was a 17 year old boy. On some fundamental level, I think it might harm my soul to take a human life no matter the circumstances. But, still, I have a gun in my home and I always will, and if I have to use it, I am confident that I can do so with a steady hand.

    The world is a scary place and I do not see it getting any better. Guns are not scary or complicated, and anyone with the determination to go to the firing range and practice and take classes if you need it can become proficient at shooting. It’s better to have a gun and never ever need it than to need a gun and not have one, IMHO.

  3. I don’t know where you all are where you’ve never seen a gun in someone’s house. Now, it may be because I was a military kid AND lived in the south, but I know people who could arm small militias. Also, realize that people who own guns typically don’t flaunt them; many keep them locked or hidden.

    Side note: A bird shot shotgun is a good defense option. It isn’t lethal but it hurts like the dickens and it’s a “point and shoot”. Also, it won’t go through walls…it’ll take a lot of clean up and patching but better that than someone else cleaning up your own blood. Plus, everyone knows the “shotgun cocking” noise…my dad went overseas to Iraq and THEY know what that noise meant. It’s a pretty good deterrent.

    • Lots of our readers are in Europe and Australia, where gun laws are quite different. To have a gun in the UK is super illegal.

  4. I used to be a pacifist, but then my fiance bought his gun, and I didn’t want to live under the same roof as something I was petrified of or take away my fiance’s right to protect our family. I went to the shooting range to learn how the gun works and to make sure that I knew how to use it (it is silly to have one in the house and not even be competent using it after all – that would be a recipe for disater!).

    The big surprise was that I absolutely love it! I have now started competition shooting and have taken it on as a sport. It is wonderful! I am now comfortable in the knowledge that I know the “killing machines” in my house inside and out, and that I know how to use them well. Accidents will always be possible, bad things happen, but I am confident in that I am more capable to handle a bad situation in my home now than I was beforehand – and (go figure) I actually feel safer with the guns in my house than I did without them! I never saw that one coming! 🙂

  5. It’s not just about guns, you know. Another weapon that’s kind of terrifying, and surprisingly unlikely to be lethal if the home invader gets medical attention, is a machete. If you don’t hit him in the head or neck, he probably won’t die. But he will bleed, a lot, and that is scary.

  6. I was always taught that if you pick up a gun, be prepared to shoot to kill. If you’re prepared to shoot to kill, be prepared to deal with the consequences of your actions.

    Could I take another person’s life? Maybe. I’m certain there are some extreme situations (protecting the lives of my family or myself for example) in which I could kill without question. Could I deal with the consequences of taking a person’s life? I don’t mean the legal consequences. I mean could I continue to look myself in the eye in the mirror and live with the fact that I just took someone’s child/sibling/grandchild from this world. Generally speaking, I don’t know that I could do that.

    Things are just things. THINGS can be replaced. I have insurance for a reason. And there are very few THINGS in life that I can’t live without. I may not WANT to live without them, but I can. ***I*** cannot be replaced though. All life is precious. I don’t believe that any one person has the right to take the life of another. That includes me and that includes my family, friends, and neighbors.

    In the few extreme situations where I could take a life without question, yeah I think I’d eventually be able to sleep at night again. Outside of those very extreme situations, such as if someone just tried to steal from me, no I don’t believe I could that.

    I grew up somewhat around guns and have had good/bad experiences with them. I’m not anti-gun. I don’t fear them but I do respect, although I may fear the person wielding them. They’re just not for me. I do want to someday take a course or two on them however just to have the knowledge of gun safety and operation just in case. I’d rather know and never need the knowledge than vice versa.

    I do however have a dog. He’s a 47 pound terrier mix who barks if a squirrel farts wrong down the block. My baseball bat is under my bed, my buck knife is under mattress, I generally have a blade on or near me most times at home. If someone breaks in and my dog doesn’t deter them, I’m up/awake by that point and I’m insured. If they try to touch me personally, they’ve come far enough into the house that they intend me harm and I’m prepared to make them pay for that decision.

  7. Easy decision for my husband and me, because it’s against our religion to carry a weapon unless you need it for your line of work (police, farmer, etc.). My sister owns a handgun, but for sport, not protection. I don’t think I’d ever be okay shooting at a human being, and I’m pretty sure anyone who saw me holding a gun would be able to see that, so it wouldn’t help me even if I wanted to own a firearm. 🙂

  8. So glad I live somewhere this is not an issue. There is strict laws against owning guns in Australia and most people that do own them live on farms. It’s terrifying and to me, and excessive that people can keep HANDGUNS, weapons made for the explicit purpose of killing people next to their beds. My house was broken into once, the frying pan was more than effective.

  9. My Dad’s an RVer, and he told me once about a conversation he saw on an RV online forum.

    American RVers were complaining that they couldn’t bring their guns into Canada, and were saying that they couldn’t understand how Canadian Rvers travelled without guns.

    A Canadian responded by saying “What do I need a gun for? I have a tire iron and a can of Easy Off Oven Cleaner”.

  10. Hubs has guns- several. He grew up shooting, and keeps them mostly for sport, but every once and a while he lapses into the macho “I shall protect house” (Grunt) mentality, which makes me uncomfortable- but I try to understand. We’re impeccable about safety/storage- to the extent that I don’t know if we’d be even able to GET to a firearm in “the nick of time” (not that I’d ever tell HIM that!)

    We’re both trained in Krav Maga, which is an Israeli self defense/street fighting technique, and, don’t laugh- but we’ve made sure that there are light switches on double sides of rooms so, god forbid someone breaks in and we’re THERE, we can turn the light off on them and have the “we know the house” advantage while we retzev them to incapacity. …But then again, we also have a more or less viable Zombie plan. So there you go.

    As uncomfortable as I am with guns, I realize that 90% of it comes from my upbringing. My mother refused to let them in her house- she was 150% anti-gun, to the point of fanaticism. I’m a trained rifle marksman, and even though Hubs grew up shooting, I’m the far better shot. Ironically, I’m the least likely to go for the gun in time of need. It’s interesting to think that a lot of our discomfort about weapons may be from our upbringing (either through positive or negative examples) as much as it is our own gut feelings.

  11. something i went through when my s.o. moved in too. he doesn’t hunt, but has a large gun collection for fun shooting, and reenactments. when he first moved in, i didn’t want any guns here. we had a lot of handsy kids in the house, and they’d pick up and play with anything they saw. because we both also cosplay and he has replica guns that look like real guns. and at cast metal weigh the same as a real gun, and look the same. (he removes orange tips for pictures)so it’s really hard to tell a real gun from a fake one in his collection.

    my brother is also a gun nut though and heard my plight. plus he and my bf went to my parents because we had a drug dealer living next door and a few shots fired in a park not far from the house and fist fights in the drive way. so my parents and brother bought gun locks for every gun my s.o. owned that would be considered home defense, (shot guns and one hand gun) you need keys to open them, and only the s.o. has the keys but one. i do. been shown how to load it and fire it. it’s actually not much different than my nerf shot gun, except heavier. but he also leaves me a billy club in the nook in the bed, a police knight stick by the headboard, and a metal baton on my side table along with pepper spray.

    before he moved in, it was a solid oak boken, a 6″ knife and pepper spray i kept by the bed. 🙂 i still prefer baseball bat and boken.

    though i am happy my s.o. had his gun when my friends ex who is a crazy gun toting nut, tried to break into our house when we were babysitting his son, because he didn’t want too. (go figure we were doing the nut a favor) i was asleep with the toddler when he tried to break in. bf got his shot gun and met him at the back room. he had guns in his car.

  12. I can’t imagine owning a gun….I’ve never even seen a real gun.I live in UK where it is illegal to own a gun (there are some types like air rifles you can own, I think, not sure..)

    Even our police don’t have guns routinely. However gun crime IS on the increase in the UK and it makes me scared.I can’t imagine a society where you can buy bullets in the supermarket. It seems insane to me.

  13. After reading this post and all of the comments I am now scared to even visit the US. Its not a gun issue, I am comfortable shooting targets and clay pigeons, but I have never felt the need to have any kind of weapon to defend my home. If I ever owned a gun it would be kept unloaded in a gun safe, the bullets would be locked away somewhere else.

  14. For many people, protecting the family is unquestionable especially at this time when danger is lurking almost enywhere. Owning a gun is a smart move to defend your family against criminals but of course, responsibility comes along with its possession.

  15. I grew up in a small town in PA. Dad hunted and always had guns in the house. When I was born, I was gifted a shotgun by a friend of my dad’s. I learned to hold a gun the same age I learned to fish- kindergarten. I learned to shoot when I was 8, which is quite normal because you can hunt at 12 and you need to be good at it by then (I’m in my twenties and a better shot than my dad now!). Everyone that I knew had at least one gun. The culture of my town was learn young and learn right. Guns were always treated as weapons and not as toys or ego-strokers. We never had a case of gun violence that I can recall in the twenty-some years I lived there. We always played outside without supervision and went to the grocery store and such on foot alone. My dad also has an amazing gun cabinet. I joke with my husband that if someone dropped an atomic bomb on us that we could hide in it and we’d be okay.

    We don’t own a gun now but I’d be okay with one. We were living outside DC and a bunch of people moved out of our complex and some scary people moved in. They would smoke and drink and scream at each other right outside our door (we were on the first floor which I hated). The people above us had parties where they would go until 4 AM and once somebody kicked a dog up there. We complained to management but they did nothing (we got new management who sucked; our old management always took noise complaints seriously).

    One night, there was a car parked facing into our living room windows with the lights on blasting very inappropriate music. It was so loud that we couldn’t hear the TV over it. I got mad and tried to talk to the guy in the car but he ignored me. I ended up calling 911 and I was berated by the woman on the phone, saying :”What, is his music scaring you?” like I was a baby. Thankfully, a very nice cop showed up 5 minutes later and made the guy go away and apologized for the rude dispatcher.

    The next day, a friend took me home from work because my husband worked late. When he dropped me off, I saw the car that had been parked outside from the night before. Once my friend pulled away, the door of the car opened and the guy started getting out. I bolted into my apartment in terror. I am an archer, so I sat with my compound bow loaded next to me on the couch until my husband came home. At that moment, I really wished I had a gun. We moved out a week later. I had to pay $2000 to break the lease but it was worth every penny. We now live somewhere super safe. We’re on the 2nd floor, the people are cool, and our door has two deadbolts and the outside key is electronic so there is no handle or keyhole to pick.

    It really makes me miss my hometown, really.

    • I just realized I wasn’t clear on why I called the cops. It wasn’t because of the loud music. He was sitting in his car, all the lights off, with the car pointed towards my windows and had this headlights on as bright as they could go shining into my apartment along with the music. It was very unsettling.

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