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May 7, 2007

I Carried a Gun and Loved It

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Because I'd always had guns, I always thought I needed them. Now, having spent most of my adult life unarmed and living in New York City-squashed between strangers on the subway without confrontation, counting a full cash drawer alone at night in my basement boutique without incident after I left my job with the DA, and living through the aftermath of September 11th, when the aware-ness of mortality and the fragility of life became part of daily consciousness-I'm more compassionate. It's a huge change from the well-defended person I was in Texas, or the homesick Second-Amendment fanatic I became in New York, the one who voted for George W. Bush in 2000, partly because he was Texan and knew what Ranch Style Beans were. It's a vote I deeply regret, given his "Quick Draw McGraw" way of dealing with the world.

Recently, my sister called to report that she, along with the rest of the family, had aced the concealed-handgun course. Despite having never fired a gun, she got a near-perfect score on the shooting test. Part of me wanted to roll my eyes at the idea of the entire family cleaning their guns together on a Sunday afternoon. Then I recalled the empowering feeling of passing the test myself a decade earlier. And although in that moment I sort of longed to be home on the gun range, wearing noise-canceling earmuffs, clicking the magazine into the butt of a gun, and chambering the first round just to see if I could still do it-I realized I no longer needed a gun to feel powerful. If anything, my willingness to be vulnerable makes me stronger. My newfound ability to live in the moment, rather than in perpetual, agitated anticipation-and dread at maybe having to put a bullet into someone-gives me more joy.

There's a well-known saying in the pro-gun world: "It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it." I understand why that makes sense-as long as it's referring to umbrellas and tampons. As for a gun, I've come to believe that not having it and not feeling like I need it is, by far, the best way to be.


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