by Theresa Vail - Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I can vividly recall the day I decided to obtain a concealed carry permit. I was 17-years-old, living in Leavenworth, Kansas—a town most notably recognized for its State and Federal penitentiaries - Like every city it had its “bad” parts, but I felt immune to that. Growing up on military bases gave me a sense of security, a false sense of inoculation against the criminalities that lie outside of those protective gates. My high school, unfortunately, was outside of those gates.
In high school I kept to myself. I was reserved and quiet, but not to be mistaken for shy. It was simply that I didn’t want to be known. I wanted to walk the halls as a ghost, safe from the rumors and drama that always follow those who are known. For the most part, I succeeded. I ate lunch in the library, tending to my favorite series of science fiction novels, and I managed to avoid ever being asked to Prom or Homecoming. I was a blissful nobody.
I did happen to be involved in one after-school club, though; the JROTC rifle team. I loved it for two distinct reasons. I had grown up around firearms and knew I was a good shot, and best of all, it was a solitary sport which meant I could still keep to myself. Well, one day I was the last to leave practice. I wasn’t able to get a parking spot in the school lot that morning, so my truck was a few walking blocks away. As I started into my walk, I noticed 4 male teenagers trailing behind me which initially I thought nothing of, until they started cat-calling. Inappropriate, foul, disgusting words that to this day burn my ears.
These guys started walking faster, surpassing my own pace. I ran the rest of the short way to my truck and immediately locked the doors. As soon as I did, they were right there, on both sides of my vehicle pounding on the windows. They were laughing, kissing at the windows, and still saying vial things. I kicked the truck into drive and sped off, crying in helpless anger.
No one will ever know what could have happened had I not gotten to my truck in time. Maybe nothing at all, maybe something far worse. But the fact is that women are socialized to fear the power that men can hold over them. Namely, rape. That day, I promised myself I would never fear that power again. I promised myself I would never be a victim. I held true to that promise.
When I was of age, I took the class for my concealed carry permit. I did not buy a handgun just yet since my college did not permit weapons on campus anyway. Instead, I kept up practice by going to the local range and renting their handguns. It was incredibly convenient. Convenience soon ended when I won Miss Kansas, though. With nonstop traveling, having to sleep in my car at gas stations and rest steps, and the general lack of security at some of the events I attended, I knew it was time to put that license to use. Main Street Armory in Pratt, Kansas, the Home of Miss Kansas, sold me my first handgun. Having rented a variety of handguns in the past, I already knew what I liked and what I didn’t, but the guys there provided plenty of helpful assistance.
To this day, that gun and my ability to carry it have provided me with confidence, empowerment, and security. I stopped wanting to be that “nobody” that I wrote of earlier when I realized I had the power to educate and teach other men and women how to shoot, just as my dad taught me. We do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world of hatred and violence. We have a right and a freedom to protect ourselves and our families. The logic of, “it won’t happen to me” is a deception; “It hasn’t happened to me” is a more accurate statement. No one is exempt from terror.
If you’re uncomfortable carrying a gun, or owning a gun for that matter, then I urge you to take classes. The NRA has a variety of courses and instructors spread out around the country. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, you have a responsibility to educate yourself if you plan on owning a gun.
Be safe, and be responsible.