When I was a sophomore in college at the University of Montevallo, I distinctly remember being followed to the parking lot one evening after one of my late classes. It was a Thursday night, and with nothing important scheduled for the next morning, I was planning to drive home instead of staying at my dorm on campus. Unfortunately, when I had arrived for classes on Monday morning earlier in the week, the only parking spot I could find was out in a remote parking area. And that’s where my car waited, since I had not moved it for nearly four days.

As I walked down the hill toward the almost-deserted spot, I heard shuffling in the leaves beside me and noticed a figure dart behind a large tree to my left. No doubt, the incident creeped me out a bit, but I didn’t think too much about it. The campus was relatively safe. People were outdoors all the time, walking around, picnicking, studying or finishing up art projects. But my heart rate did increase, right along with the pace of my steps, especially when I heard more movement right behind me on the pavement. I didn’t know who it was or what he or she was up to. I just knew that I really wanted to get to my car.

Funny the things we remember, because I can recall thinking about what in the world I would do if someone tried to hurt me. The only “weapons” I had were an adjustable wrench, my backpack and an archaic bag phone in my car. Thankfully, nothing happened. I raced to my vehicle, threw myself and everything else inside and immediately closed and locked the door. Whoever it was didn’t make an appearance. And I went on my way … a little rattled, but safe and sound.

I realize that I’m aging myself terribly here, but over the decades, beginning when I was a sophomore in college (go figure!), I’ve had my share of pepper spray canisters and various key chains that either held or were in the shape of sharp objects or weapons. But since I grew up in a home that was absent of guns, firearms were never an option for me. I just never thought about them. Never even considered them! And, quite honestly, I never really thought that guns were something for me — just an average, ordinary, everyday female. Guns were for security guards, for soldiers, for law enforcement officers, for bad guys and for heroes.

I honestly believe that this is how it is for a lot of women. As hard as we fight to normalize gun ownership, guns are still not accepted by everyone as a tool for everyone. Of course, these people aren’t necessarily against firearms; they just don’t know anything about them. And they probably have never taken the time to think much about guns. Firearms just weren’t — or aren’t — a part of their lives or their lifestyles. And in this situation, it truly is a case of “out of sight, out of mind.”

But I’m here to say to women — and to anyone — that firearms are not just an option, they are most likely your best option. If you want to be safe, if you want to have a fighting chance, that adjustable wrench is just NOT going to do the trick. The good thing is: You don’t have to have a background in firearms to learn about guns. You don’t have to be trained by an elite force of combat-tested military veterans to be able to become safe and proficient with a gun for self-defense. You don’t have to have a story, an excuse or even an epiphany. If I could give you the best reason why you should own, train and protect yourself and your loved ones with firearms, it really is as simple as these three words: because you can.