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May 7, 2007

I Carried a Gun and Loved It

Being a woman with a gun gave me power and strength in a throwback environment where females were viewed defiantly, as the weaker sex.

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The most memorable Valentine's Day gift I ever received was a black nylon fanny pack designed to hold a gun. For my live-in, gun-nut boyfriend, it was a grand romantic gesture and an encore, of sorts, to his Christmas present, a .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol. I had hoped for the new "lady friendly" hammerless Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, but the fanny pack would have to do.

It definitely topped his gifts from years past: a can of pepper spray and a tactical pocketknife. And the timing was perfect. I had just qualified for a concealed-handgun permit under a recently passed state law-the state, of course, being Texas.

Every time I jogged in our neighborhood, a safe place by most standards, my boyfriend checked to make sure I had my gun with me. The fanny pack had a special Velcro strap inside so the firearm wouldn't jostle or go off as I ran, although sometimes it bruised my hip. And yes, I occasionally wondered if it was necessary to pack heat for an afternoon run. But I continued to do so -- and even began carrying it in my purse. I was pretty sure I'd have the guts to use it if I had to. When I worked as a club doorgirl, I once maced a guy because he was banging my boss's head on the sidewalk. It was that very night, in fact, that my boyfriend first asked me out.

On one of our first dates, we tried out his brand-new AK-47, outfitted with a rapid-fire mechanism and a 30 round drum. Clad in a 1960s leopard coat and knee-high boots, I squeezed the trigger and heard the rat-tat-tat sound of bullets spraying out, pelting the sides of the rock canyon and echoing back at us. Our other dates included shooting cardboard human-form targets at indoor gun ranges and attending gun shows after Sunday brunch.

For me, there was nothing weird about living among heavy artillery and having to move night-vision rifle scopes from the table before serving dinner. I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas with a rabidly Democratic stepfather who nonetheless believed that guns should be stowed in every car, crevice, and corner. The nail-polish drawer in my parents' bedroom contained a .357 Magnum alongside the cuticle scissors. A cupboard over the stove housed a holster with a wooden grip peeking out. Going out to dinner always involved my stepdad giving my mom a pistol to keep in her beaded baguette purse. He put NRA stickers on the family cars, including mine. Pistols were everywhere, and although it seemed archaic, paranoid, and even somewhat, shall I say, Branch Davidian, I got used to being within three feet of loaded firearms at all times.


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