I'm that rare breed of animal. I'm a hardcore liberal that owns guns. In a perfect world, this would allow me to navigate both sides, uniting them harmoniously to discuss their differences and solve the gun violence problem together. Of course it's NOT a perfect world, so in reality I'm probably just pissing off everyone equally. But give me a chance and see if we can find some common ground!
To address my liberal brethren first, I'll share why I carry a gun. I've spent well over two decades working in one form or another in the field of violence against women, and it's left me with a solid understanding of the horrors that people are willing to perpetrate upon one another. Even right here in small-town, rural Iowa. I'm also a true crime aficionado, fascinated by serial killers and mass murderers. And this has probably, I suppose, left me with a healthy (unhealthy?) paranoia. I genuinely believe that a gun can be an integral part of an individual's personal safety plan.
I teach a lot of physical self-defense classes, and a lot of weapons classes. I teach women how to fight with just their bodies, and I teach them how to use pepper sprays, kubatons, stun guns, knives, even improvised weapons. (I like to brag that I can kill you with almost anything in my purse. I'm exaggerating, of course, but it's fun to pretend!) And I am currently working on getting certified to teach the conceal carry courses.
The purpose of weapons is to help us even the playing field. As women, our attackers are almost always going to be bigger, stronger, committed assailants and, the truth is, we have no way of knowing if it's "just" an assault or if they're going to kill us when they're done. I want to make sure every woman has access to as many tricks, techniques, and tools possible to protect herself.
One of the things that drives me nuts about "gun people" is that so many of them believe guns are the ONLY protection a gal could ever need. Whenever I'm talking about self-defense stuff or the myriad of weapons available to women, some gun person (usually a guy) has to immediately pipe in with, "Just get a gun! That's all you need!" Thanks for your keen insight, Rambo.
I like layers of protection. If I get grabbed from behind in a parking lot (apparently I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings!) I may not be able to get to my gun or one of my several knives (Yes, I said "several". Paranoid, remember?) But because I know I'm always supposed to have my keys in my hand when I'm going to my car, I likely DO have a kubaton handy. And if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night and an assailant is already on top of me, I know how to fight back physically with no weapon at all.
When I teach women about weapons, I always reinforce that if you are going to carry a weapon - ANY weapon - you need to know how to use, and be prepared to use it. If you feel like there is just no way you could shoot a person, no matter what, that's totally okay! That just means don't carry a gun, because it's not for you. That doesn't mean there aren't tons of other ways to protect yourself. But know ahead of time what you are and are not comfortable with; don't let a loved one pressure you into getting a gun if you know it isn't the tool for you. And when you've selected a tool, GET TRAINED!
Now here's where I part company with "gun folks"; I'm just not all that crazy about the second amendment. (What was that sound? Was that the sound of conservative heads everywhere exploding?) Don't get me wrong; I groove on the Constitution overall. But whenever someone starts "second amendment-ing" me, I start quizzing them. How many amendments are there overall? What specific freedoms does the first amendment cover? Which amendment gave women the right to vote? When they can't answer the basics, it tells me that they maybe aren't the Constitutional scholars they're holding themselves out to be. In their minds, the second amendment is the ONLY part of the Constitution that really matters. Here's the thing; the Founding Fathers OWNED OTHER HUMAN BEINGS. This is an indicator that, while they got lots of things right and did some pretty terrific stuff overall, they're clearly not infallible.
To ME, gun ownership is not a right, it's a privilege. Like driving. Now, we certainly don't go out of our way to make driver's licenses difficult to get, but we do require you to actually earn them. You have to take a driver's ed course, and you have to demonstrate proficiency (show that you actually know how to drive a car without randomly veering off into the ditch). You have to renew your license regularly, you have to carry at least liability insurance, and if you go out and start driving like a jackass you can have those privileges revoked or suspended.
In Iowa, you can get your conceal carry permit ONLINE. You can get a permit to carry a gun without ever actually laying a finger on a gun. That disturbs me. When I got my conceal carry permit, I took the class in person because I thought it would be a more thorough, hands-on class. I was mistaken. Even in the in-person class, I still didn't have to even touch a gun. Imagine taking a driver's ed course and never getting behind the wheel of a car.
Gun folks say that requiring any sort of training is an infringement of their Constitutional rights. They also say that requiring training is just a ploy to make it harder to get a gun. Driver's ed is not intended to make it harder to get a driver's license; it's intended to protect the rest of us from people who learned how to drive by watching "Smokey and the Bandit". Requiring you to take a decent gun training course is simply about protecting us from negligent owners.
I'm not going to focus on the active shooter scenarios in this post. That is a very complex issue, and I'm actually writing an entire book on that topic. I'm not even going to focus on deliberate gun violence here. For this post, what I want to focus on is the issue of gun negligence. Because while the active shooters are a real threat, the majority of injuries and deaths by guns stem from basic negligence. And negligence stems, in most cases, from a lack of solid training. (But sure, sometimes people are just dumb....)
I would like to see reciprocity between the states. If you get a conceal carry permit in one state, it should be valid in all fifty states. There's no reason traveling while armed should be complicated. But in order to get that permit, you need to take a comprehensive class that covers not only the four basic gun rules but also requires you to take a gun apart and clean it, to practice loading and unloading, and to practice actual shooting. You don't have to be a great shot who nails the bullseye every single time, but I would like you to demonstrate that you know enough to not turn around to talk to the instructor and accidentally point the gun at him/her.
I would also like to see insurance requirements. We are required to carry at least liability insurance on our cars, and we're required to carry home owner's insurance in case someone trips over their own shoelaces on our property; it should be no difference with guns. If you left your gun lying out where your toddler can access it and he shoots someone, your insurance needs to cover that person's medical expenses. (Don't even get me started on the healthcare system!) And if someone is shot either through your own personal negligence or through your negligence in letting unauthorized people have access to your guns, then you should be prosecuted for that negligence.
Realistically, I would like to assume that most gun owners are like me. They WANT to know what they're doing, they WANT to be safe and smart, they WANT to be well-trained. But the people that are grossly negligent don't typically know that they're negligent. How would they know without a good, solid education? We require trainings and certifications and licensures for all kinds of things; there's no reason guns should be exempt from that.
My ideas for preventing deliberate gun violence are way too in-depth to discuss here, because there's really so much to the solution. Like I said, I'm literally doing a whole book on it! But I think a logical starting point for both sides to unite around is preventing injury and death through negligence, and that requires education, training, and practice. Thank you so much for reading this, and I would love to hear your thoughts!
*This is an affiliate link that I get commissions for, but it is a great book for beginners and seasoned pros alike!