About a year ago, I received a call from a friend. She was hysterical. She'd been having problems with a stalker for months. She'd gotten weird notes on her car and threatening phone calls. This time, he'd broken into her home. She didn't know who "he" was, and the police didn't offer much assistance in finding out. I did the only thing I knew that would help her: I took her to the shooting range.
It wasn't the first time I'd taken a woman I cared about to the range where they could learn to shoot a variety of guns and determine which one they'd feel most comfortable purchasing. I think about each of them when I encounter anti-gun rhetoric.
As a person who falls on the progressive side of most social issues, I have many liberal friends and read a lot of liberal writers. A certain sect within this group is becoming unbearable and I need to talk about it:
White males against gun ownership, I need you to have a seat.
It seems like every day, some asshole does something stupid with a gun, and each time I read the taunting jeers: "Look what this 'responsible gun owner did.'" It's as if these anecdotes are proof there is no such thing as responsible gun ownership and no one needs a gun for protection.
Almost every time, the person behind these jeers is both white and male.
Being a white male doesn't require much protection. When police stop you, you don't have to wonder if today might be your last. You can set down your drink in a public place. There are no hate groups formed with the specific intention of eradicating you from Earth and there are no organizations holding meetings to talk about how cool it would be if they could legally rape you, as the men's right group Return of Kings does.
These people do exist, and they are dangerous.
Women never know when they might encounter one of these lowlifes. In cases like that of my aforementioned friend, her threat was immediate. There was no time to learn some slick self-defense moves and be practiced enough in them for that to be her only means of protection. Many women don't have the extra time to commit in the gym to provide themselves with the training they'd need to match forces with a male attacker.
Perhaps that's why the fastest growing segment of gun owners in America is women.
According to the National Sporting Goods Associations' Annual Sports Participation Report, the number of women who practice target shooting increased almost 36 percent (from 4.31 million to 5.86 million) between 2004 and 2014. According to the National Rifle Association, the number of women who owned firearms increased 77 percent increase between 2004 and 2011.
It's possible the NRA is exaggerating these numbers. Because of its political influence, laws make it nearly impossible to track this data. Like all powerful lobbies, the NRA needs to be reined in. I'm not here to argue on its behalf. And I'm also not here to argue that a 21-year-old with a clean criminal record should be able to walk into a store and come out with an automatic weapon. What I am here to say is that sometimes women feel a gun is necessary to protect their bodies – their bodies, their choice. Keep your laws and judgment off of them.
Another thing is that if you want to have a conversation about new gun control laws, the fact that they will disproportionately affect black and Hispanic people needs to be be a part of it.
In 2014, the Washington Post reported that over 47 percent of people convicted for federal gun crimes were black — "a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes" and the same year, a USA Today investigation revealed the nation's top gun-enforcement agency (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) overwhelmingly targeted racial and ethnic minorities in sting operations and at least 91 percent of the people agents locked up using those stings were racial or ethnic minorities.
Do you think if new gun laws are enacted, the first people authorities will go after are gun store owners or the "troubled" young white men who are responsible for the majority of mass shootings?
I understand why you believe that strict gun control is the answer and that guns don't protect people, but it is the privilege of being a white male in America that affords you that point of view without the consideration of others. The sooner you take into account all voices, the sooner we can stop screaming at each other and enact some meaningful solutions.