Owning guns doesn’t make me a bad mom

I was raised in the South, where learning how to use a gun is a rite of passage. I’ve been raised to both fear and respect firearms and the power they yield, and teaching my children those same values is incredibly important to me.

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I couldn’t have been older than 10 when my dad took me, guns in tow, down to a fishing hole on our property to educate me about guns. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget.

He brought three guns with us — a revolver, a rifle and a shotgun — along with earplugs and plastic bottles that we would later use as targets. He grew up hunting and fishing in the South, possessed a carry permit for most of his life, spent five years in the Navy and was raised by many of his Marine uncles, so his gun expertise more than qualified him to educate me on the grave responsibility of gun ownership.

The first lesson, aptly titled “Always Consider a Gun Loaded,” was on how to hold a gun and how to use the safety. “Caution is your friend,” he told me. “Always point it down until you’re ready to use it; even if the safety is on, always point towards the ground.” My dad repeated this over and over again, instilling both fear and respect into my impressionable little mind.

He then taught me about ammunition, aim and how to pull the trigger. “Never point a gun at something unless you’re ready to shoot it,” he warned. For several hours that day I learned how to safely use a gun; how to properly load, unload and shoot it; how and where to aim and how to store it appropriately when finished. I waged a war on the plastic bottles floating down the creek that day and walked out of the woods both fearing and respecting the power of those weapons, and with a new and deep understanding of the importance of safety.

Now that I have two boys of my own, my family’s gun ownership comes with more accountability. Yes, there are guns in our house: two old, unloaded shotguns securely hidden out of the reach of our kids and separate from the ammunition required to fire them.

Recently there was a story in the news about a pro-gun mother who was shot and wounded by her toddler after he found a loaded handgun in their car. Sadly, these stories aren’t all that rare. In fact, in 2015 more people were shot and killed by toddlers than were killed by terrorists. Fifteen people, 13 of them toddlers, died because of the apathetic efforts of people that don’t take the responsibility of owning guns seriously enough to even keep them out of the reach of their kids.

Most gun tragedies involving children are because guns aren’t properly stored. It should be common sense that a gun should never be within the reach of a child, and they especially shouldn’t be left loaded when not being used. It’s not a tricky concept.

As of right now, our kids don’t even know our guns exist, but when the time comes, I’ll also talk to my kids about guns and gun violence, and they too will learn how to properly and safely use a gun, just like I did. It is the responsibility of every parent with guns to teach their kids these lessons.

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Owning a gun doesn’t make me a hillbilly or a bad mom. I’m not out in my back yard shooting squirrels for fun or blaring Ted Nugent over the radio while my toddler runs around playing “cops and robbers” with a Glock. I’m an educated woman who wishes Sarah Palin would shut the hell up. I work, I vote and I value my freedoms. I own guns because I’ve just got this urge as a mother to want to keep my family safe.

Here’s the thing: I (as well as most gun-owners) would rather have a gun and not need it than need a gun and not have it. I can pull a trigger quicker than I can dial 911, and if the situation ever presents itself, I’m confident in my abilities to do so.

For me at least, possessing a gun and understanding how to use it if the time ever came is kind of a big deal. Teaching my boys that same respect and those same lessons is also a top priority once they reach the appropriate age, and those aren’t lessons that my husband and I take lightly. Gun safety isn’t a lesson that anyone should take lightly, and their presence alone needs to be taken seriously by their owners, especially people with kids.

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Now, all of my pro-gun defense doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t support laws that might restrict someone’s access to firearms. I’ve owned guns my entire life. It’s such a tiny part of my life, yet I consider it so important that I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain that ownership. If I need to jump through a few more hoops to own one, so be it. Give me a background check; make me take a class, or pass a test — I’ll do whatever I need to do because I not only care about the safety of my own kids, but the safety of everyone.

Not everyone in possession of a gun is crazy or careless. So please, for the sake of all the sane gun owners out there, don’t categorize us all as the same lead-crazed conservative cowboys. I’m diligent and cautious in regards to my family’s guns. I’m just a mom who wants the ability to be able to protect my family if the need were ever to arise.

That doesn’t make me a bad mom; it makes me a good one.