When one is a vocal supporter of background checks before purchasing a firearm, or federal dollars to support research into gun-related deaths, or of the ability of medical doctors to inquire of patients suffering from clinical depression or other mental illness if there is a gun in the home, there is a certain breed of “gun rights” supporter that will automatically assume you have never touched a gun and hate the very idea of shooting one. Period. End of story.
But like most assumptions, these can be wrong.
In a video game arcade I head straight for the first person shooter games (race car games are a close second). When my boyfriend and I went to Las Vegas, we went to The Gun Store, and shot a variety of weapons including a Walther P99 and an assault weapon that was almost as big as I am. Forgive me, it was many years ago, and I can’t remember what, exactly, it was. I just remember how freaking BIG it was.
I enjoyed that experience so much the boyfriend considered getting me a year’s membership at a gun club in Norwalk.
He’d gotten his NRA sharpshooter certificate at camp when he was a kid.
But despite that, neither of us own a firearm, and we’re both firm believers in all the things I mentioned above and that the Stand Your Ground Amendments should be overturned. I believe it is possible to hold these positions and still not abrogate the Second Amendment. I also believe that the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation have been grossly irresponsible and extremist in holding otherwise.
There’s a good reason I don’t own a firearm, and it’s not because I don’t like the feeling of firing one. Rather, it’s because I like it a little too much.
Back in 2003, I attended the Citizen’s Police Academy in Greenwich, and part of it entailed the type of situational weapons training that police officers go through. We took turns with a Glock hooked up to a training simulator, which ran videos of an incident. We had to decided if and when to fire.
My first situation involved a car with two suspects — I didn’t know if they were armed. The car stopped outside a residential building. Despite being told to stay in the car, one of the suspects emerged and started walking toward me, gesticulating wildly and shouting. I starting shooting.
The officer in charge stopped the video.
“WHY DID YOU FIRE?” he asked. He didn’t sound happy.
I lowered the Glock.
“He was shouting at me.”
“He had his hands in the air!” the instructor pointed out. “There was no weapon.”
I’m 5 ‘3” and a survivor of both sexual and verbal abuse, not to mention that time a guy tried to pull me into his car when I was walking home from high school after theater rehearsal at age 15, and both street harassment and rush hour subway groping when I lived in New York City.
In other words, I’ve had life experiences similar to far too many women who are my age. Just read the Twitter hashtag #yesallwomen, which started in response to the Isla Vista shootings.
I realized that merely because I’d felt threatened by a larger, verbally abusive man, I’d not only shot, multiple times, an unarmed person, but one of my stray bullets had gone through the wall of a residential building and could have potentially killed an innocent person. Potentially even an innocent child.
That’s when I realized that as much as I loved the feeling of power that having a gun in my hand gives me, putting a lethal weapon in my hand in a real life situation is far too dangerous, because in the heat of the moment, I will shoot first and ask questions later. It’s better for everyone if I stick to arcades and shooting ranges.
What’s the difference between me and, say, a George Zimmerman? Why did I take the course of deciding that I shouldn’t own a gun, rather than make myself into the neighborhood vigilante?
Maybe it’s because I spent nine long months carrying each child, vomiting six to eight times a day for over five months (whoever called it “morning sickness” lied) and then spent 48 hours in labor to bring one child into the world and 12 more to bring in another.
Maybe it’s because my faith tells me “whosoever destroys a single soul . . . scripture imputes [guilt] to him as though he had destroyed a complete world; and whosoever preserves a single soul . . . scripture ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved a complete world.”
So when I hear the inevitable, “if only there had been a good guy with a gun” and I remember how difficult it is to be a “good guy with the gun” in that split second heat of the moment, I shake my head and wonder: Where are the thoughtful, cooler heads in this debate?
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.