In light of the recent terrorist events, here’s my road to home defense…

More than a decade ago, I took a gun safety class. The retired police officer who taught it told us to not own a gun unless we were willing to shoot to kill in self-defense.

His first reasoning was that a criminal would not hesitate to use your own gun against you. He also reasoned that a nonfatal wound (such as in the kneecap) would just enrage a drug abuser looking to fund his or her next high. Between the rage and the perp’s ability to power through the pain, I would be at a great disadvantage standing there cloaked in my love and empathy for humanity.

You see, all the stars aligned in my life, as a nurse, a mother, and a Christian, to make me a card-carrying, flag-waving bleeding heart. I believe there is good in everyone and that every life matters. For this very reason, I did not purchase a gun at that time.

As a single mom, my children’s safety is entirely in my hands. As you may already have gleaned from my prior writing, I am alone but not alone in my life. Even when it comes to safety, I have my angels.

Although we live in a large rural county, we are blessed to be only a few miles from the local PA State Police Barracks. My brother-in-law, Tim, also has had my back more times than I can remember. Since he and his brother farm the property next to and across from my own, he’s in a unique position to keep tabs on us and our property and he’ll text me if something’s up.

But, in the recent past, I’ve had a few disturbing incidents. One morning as I was leaving for work, there was a dry spot next to my car in the driveway despite it having rained all night. Since I live in a rural area and my house is far from the beaten path, this was very disconcerting but I brushed it off because nothing was disturbed as far as I could tell. Another time I saw a car parked on our logging path but figured it was a hunter who had ignored the No Trespassing sign. I checked to make sure the sign was still up but by the time I got down to the logging path, the car was gone.

I talked to a friend whose husband is a local cop and he recommended that I get serious about security because of being alone and in a rural setting. He also recommended that I get a gun and a concealed carry permit. Because I had 4 young kids at home (one of whom is very curious and impulsive), I decided against purchasing a gun until I had done a lot of research on gun safety.

And then there was the final straw.

One night I dreamt of elephants surrounding my house and when I woke up, my doorknob (on a door that had just been installed 2 weeks prior) was mangled up and dangling off and there were dig marks in the door jamb. At first I thought that a bear had tried to get in but since the trash outside was undisturbed, I couldn’t deny the fact that someone had tried to get into my house.

In my house. With my kids in it.

Suddenly, the momma bear overwhelmed the bleeding heart in me. I realized I would do anything to protect my children. Thus began my foray into gun ownership. My first stop was Up in Arms Shooting Supplies. The awesome guys there tolerated my million questions and answered some I never even thought to ask. I bought a revolver, bullets and a gun safe.

I shook the entire way home. The first time I shot it, my brother-in-law Tim was nice enough to stay with me which was great because I was still shaking. Because of my interest in concealed carry, the guys at Up in Arms also recommended The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry by Massad Ayoob. This book was life-changing. I read it from cover to cover and had to take notes. One day I hope to take his classes.  I did eventually apply and get approved for a concealed carry permit.

The management of the purchase took on a lot more importance in our household where several of my children have PTSD and anxiety. Most of my time and energy went into planning purchase and use and security of the gun and gun safe, so that it would be easily accessible in emergency but not so easily accessible to curious kids.

Because I still have a curious and impulsive son who struggles with perseverating behavior, I practice shooting and clean the gun while he’s not around. In fact, the purchase was such a nonevent to him that it hasn’t become a point of fixation. My daughters are split as to whether they are interested in shooting or not.

Instead of focusing on gun ownership as the be-all and the end-all of our home security plan, it became just one more component. I researched home security and assessed our weaknesses. Each of our doorknobs was replaced with one with a higher security rating. I installed a surveillance camera with plans for expanding this system. I still have improvements to make but the biggest hurdle has already been crossed…my own sense of false security.  In light of the increased frequency, randomness, and unpredictability of recent terrorist events, personal and home defense has moved to the top of to do list.

The revolver ended up being a great first gun, easy to use and easy to care for. And once I was able to relax, I realized how much I really enjoy target shooting. I’ve even planned my next gun purchase. I still pray that I’ll never have to take a life in defense of my family or myself but I know that I’ll handle my gun safely and confidently if I ever need to use it.

How do you feel about guns in your house? Please feel free to share. As you can see, opinions can vary even within one person’s lifetime so there will be no judgment here.