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The first gun I ever shot was a double-barrel shotgun. I was 15 years old and my best friend’s older brother had set up two liter soda bottles outside for target practice. I didn’t have any real interest in shooting, but he insisted that I give it a try. I had no ear protection and was given zero warning about the giant bruise that would form the next day on my shoulder. I took aim, and to my delight, I blew my arch-enemy, Mountain Dew, into another universe. I shrieked, jumped up and down with sheer joy, and promptly planted the barrel of the gun into the soft sandy soil. My friend’s brother did not share in my ecstasy, but lectured me about how he was going to have to spend all afternoon cleaning his gun. His dark looks did not encourage my inner-sportsman. Since then, I was given a couple other opportunities, but due to my previous experience, I never relished the idea of shooting anything unless it was plugged into a gaming console.
Then my husband decided I should go to the range a several years ago. We owned a handgun and he wanted to make sure I could use it in the event he was out-of-town and I needed the protection. And as Clint Eastwood aptly put it, “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.” Needless to say, I thought learning to use our firearm correctly was a wise move because we have small kids and I have trouble sleeping when he is gone; especially after watching episodes of 48 Hours where whole families are randomly murdered in their beds by psychos.
I must confess, I had mixed feelings about going to the range. I was nervous because of past events and I didn’t want to show up on the front page of national newspapers for accidentally killing several people because of my inexperience. As a woman, I imagined I was going to be entering a “man’s world” and I dreaded the snarky looks. If you are scoffing at my self-doubt, then I want you to picture in your mind how insecure even Charles Bronson would be in an exclusive spa surrounded by candles and mystical music in his fluffy bathrobe and bamboo slippers.
The unknown is what worries me most so I pelted my husband with 1000 questions so I felt better prepared. I gathered my courage and we headed out. My husband went over some brief gun safety and had me load the extra clips with ammo. In hindsight, the loading of all the clips was unnecessary, but it accomplished two things. One, it calmed my nerves because it was something I could do without killing anyone, and two, my husband didn’t have to do it. I didn’t notice any snarky looks when we entered the building because I didn’t make eye contact. With eye and hearing protection secured, I made my way back to the actual range. Even with ear protection, I was amazed at the magnitude of sound. I could feel my teeth rattling in my head it was so loud. This did not help my nerves.
Once we were at our stall, I relaxed because I had accepted the fact that it was just going to be loud and I would have to get over it. I finally stopped jumping after each shot and my husband showed me how to load and unload, how to put the paper target up and send it down range, how to hold the gun when not shooting, and how to aim and hold for accuracy. I fired a few shots and my confidence was building until a hot shell went down my blouse. And yes, I wore a blouse. Then one pinged me in the side of the head. I was rattled and desperately wanted to go to the restroom to check for blisters, but I continued on. We spent a total of twenty minutes in the war zone. I have to say, it wasn’t as relaxing as a spa, but I left feeling I had learned something important and knowing that if the need arose, I had the ability to protect my family from a psycho killer.
So if there is a woman in your life, whether it be a girlfriend, wife, daughter, mother, grandmother, or simply a neighbor or friend, remember to encourage them to learn self-defense. Take into account how intimidating it can be to be put in an environment that may be completely and utterly foreign. I have compiled a simple list from my own experience for anyone guiding a woman through her first steps to being self-reliant.
If you teach every woman in your life how to properly and fearlessly wield a weapon so they are confident and don’t feel hesitant or defensive then you may well save their life and the lives of those around them.