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May 7, 2007

I Carried a Gun and Loved It

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I always knew I was meant to live in a liberal city (and dump that defensive boyfriend), so eight-and-a-half years ago, I accepted a job as a paralegal at the Manhattan district attorney's office, which offered an interesting segue from the Wild West. I talked guns with the officers, who were amazed that a woman knew her Rugers from her Lugers. I kept my gun license in my wallet for show-and-tell, even though it wasn't valid in New York state.

My gun knowledge was a novelty to my fellow paralegals, mostly women who came from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island. I'm not sure if it was the widening of their eyes when I told stories about shooting, their nervous laughter, their sidelong glances at each other, or all three, but I began to realize that my experiences with weapons were not exactly the norm. I began to feel like a caricature, as if I belonged in a Coney Island sideshow as "the rootin' tootin' Texas gun lady." Although there were a couple of assistant DAs who liked to talk guns with me, no one who worked in our bureau carried one-not even those who were prosecuting gang members and drug dealers. This Northeastern approach to law enforcement-tough, but without the need to boost cojones with caliber-began to shift my view on guns. Visiting Dallas didn't hurt either.On one of my first trips back to the Lone Star State, I brought a native New Yorker I was dating (who would become my husband two years later). Within 20 minutes, my stepdad had him slamming shots of tequila and shooting beer cans with a BB gun in the backyard. When we borrowed the family car, I remembered to remove the pistol from the glove compartment, since my carry license was no longer active. We later realized there'd been another gun under the passenger seat all along-the semiautomatic that, at the time, my parents thought they'd lost. This wouldn't have fazed me before; now it felt dangerous and weird. Though I desperately missed the big Texas sky, the sweet smell after a storm, and even the barbecued brisket, the rest of the state started to feel like a lawless theme park with SUVs, stadium-size churches, and billboards advertising upcoming gun shows and reminding parents that "children under 12 are admitted free!"

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