» I HAVEN’T EVEN REACHED MY 40s YET, but I have already gone through “the change.” I started experiencing various symptoms many years ago. At first, I would just feel “off.” I wasn’t sure if it was nausea, faintness, nerves or all of the above. I just felt uncomfortable, maybe even more self-conscious … or self-aware. I was not 100 percent myself. Frequently, I would get hot and sweaty, and sometimes the unpleasant warmth would dissipate only to be replaced by a hollow chill afterwards. I’m not really sure how to best describe it, especially since it’s so different for everyone, but for a while, I just did not feel “right.”
You see, when I first started going through the change of carrying a firearm, I was nervous. I was very aware of my gun. I was worried about printing. I was always wondering about what other people might think. I’d get uneasy and clammy. My heart would beat faster, and sometimes I would talk too fast. It was a transition period, for sure. I was adjusting. I was transforming. I was growing accustomed to a whole new lifestyle — the concealed carry lifestyle.
Owning and carrying a firearm affects who you are and how you live your life. You can’t escape that.
Nowadays, I’m more calm and focused, more relaxed and reassured. And I’ve accepted the change — the very profound transformation a woman goes through after making the initial decision to learn how to safely and proficiently use a firearm, how to choose a gun that works best for her, how to train with her gun to protect her family and herself, and how to carry that firearm every day.
Of course, you don’t have to be a woman to have experienced the change. It happens to everyone who embraces the responsibly armed lifestyle. Owning and carrying a firearm affects who you are and how you live your life. You can’t escape that. But for women (and moms, especially), this change affects every aspect of our lives and our relationships.
Concealed carry can dictate what you wear, whom you hang out with, where you go, when you do things and even why you choose to do them. Concealed carry brings out a variety of responses and emotions. We feel differently and we think differently, and because of that, we move through our daily lives in very different ways.
No matter who we are or how long we’ve owned a gun, making the choice to carry a concealed firearm brings about a change. And, ultimately, for most women, this change results in a new source of equality, certainty, security and responsibility that we might not otherwise have.
Let’s face it: The average woman is not as physically strong as the average man. We’re built differently. We’re typically shorter, smaller and less muscular. In a hand-to-hand struggle, even if a woman works out, lifts weights or studies martial arts, she might still be overpowered by a man, unless she has a gun and she knows how to use it.
Women are also the more victimized gender. Look at the reports and statistics: Every nine seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten, and every day, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Things haven’t changed all that much through the years: Women are still most often the ones who are kidnapped, raped or killed. But firearms can change that.
The bottom line is a gun is undoubtedly the best way for a woman to defend herself in a worst-case scenario.
There’s a well-known quote that says, “God made man, but Sam Colt made them equal.” You can interpret that phrase to mean that all men (and women) are on equal ground when they are carrying firearms. Many people even describe guns as equalizers, rather than weapons, because guns can put us in a better position to defend ourselves against violent criminals.
The bottom line is a gun is undoubtedly the best way for a woman to defend herself in a worst-case scenario. And I’m not alone in these feelings. My friend — and relatively new concealed-carry enthusiast — Kelly Welke said, “Being a woman, I feel like I’m more likely to be seen as a target. I know that if a bigger, stronger person attacked me, there’s a very good chance that I would be overpowered. Carrying a gun gives me a tool to even the odds.”
Along with a feeling of equality, carrying a firearm can also help provide confidence and control. Some women even call it a sense of empowerment. They are emboldened and renewed by their right to carry a firearm and by their understanding of how to use it.
In my life, having a gun with me at all times makes me much more aware of my surroundings. I no longer live in “Condition White,” ambling aimlessly, glued to my smartphone or distracted by all the goings-on around me. I pay attention. I take precautions. As a responsibly armed American, I live by Col. Jeff Cooper’s “Condition Yellow,” with a deliberately changed mindset and an understanding that this world isn’t always a nice place.
I’m also more cautious and purposeful in my decisions and my actions. Going through the change has caused me to look for the safest parking spots, the closest exits and even possibly the shadiest characters. I’ve read books and I’ve taken classes. I’ve prepared myself, and I’ve trained with my gun. I am sure that if a situation went wrong, I could find a solution … hopefully to avoid or escape but also, as a last resort, to defend.
Probably the most obvious and most important part of the change when choosing to carry a firearm is the sense of security it brings. Of course, having a gun is not the solution to everything, but it’s certainly an added layer of protection. And most women do feel safer when they train with and carry a firearm. In fact, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2014 study, “The single most important reason women decided to purchase or otherwise own a gun was for defense, both self (26.2 percent) and home (22 percent).”
For the woman who walks across a dark parking lot every night after work. For the realtor who shows houses to new people every week. For the single mom who has some shadows in her past. They would all agree. Part of the transition from not carrying a gun to carrying one every day is building on a source of safety that they might not have had before.
Choosing to carry concealed also adds a source of responsibility on several different levels. It adds responsibility in that a woman has chosen to defend herself and her loved ones should a situation force her to do so. Especially if that woman is a wife or a mother, she knows that she has the lives of other people to consider. But having a gun also adds some accountability in that a woman with a gun should know how to properly and effectively handle it.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to learn and train as much as possible,” Welke added. “What good is a tool if I’m not able to safely and confidently use it?“
Thankfully, there are more courses and classes available that are created for — and even taught by — women. From situational awareness to defensive pistol, there are many training programs available for women who are interested in becoming more proficient with their concealed carry firearms.
As we all know, it’s not enough simply to have a gun. You must make the conscious decision to use it, if the monsters of this world make that necessary. And you must know how to use the firearm safely and proficiently, especially in the darkest and worst situations. It’s all part of the learning process.
My particular change might not have been what you thought it was at first blush. It’s not about hormones and hot flashes; it’s about holsters and muzzle blasts. But, thankfully, the anxiety and timidity are gone, replaced by the equality, certainty, security and responsibility that gun ownership and concealed carry can provide.
I can honestly admit that I am a profoundly different person from the woman — and mother — I was before I made the decision to carry a firearm. I am physically changed because of how I dress, how I move, how I train and how I carry. But I am also emotionally changed because of the decisions I have made, the situations I have contemplated and the obstacles I have overcome.
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