There are as many reasons that people own guns as there are gun owners. Some people feel safer with them. Some feel more empowered. Others feel conflicted because of the way guns change the way they think and live.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Let me tell you about three people I know who own guns. (I hope you’ll understand why I won’t use their names.) One is a retired police officer. She straps on her holster anytime she goes outside the house. She’s a professional who doesn’t advocate others owning guns but has carried one for so long that it is part of who she is.
A second acquaintance is worried about the catastrophic breakdown of society. Though she is a “prepper” and has laid in stores of food and amassed a small arsenal of weapons, she is lighthearted, pleasant, and makes her living as a therapist helping others overcome their troubles. She just believes what she believes.
The third is most indicative of the modern Ameri-can gun owner. She recently separated from her husband of 31 years. Her brother, who works in law enforcement, encouraged her to buy a handgun since she is living in a small Vermont town. She had grown up around rifles and learned to shoot at a young age, but she never thought of using guns for self-defense.
“I’m now alone and in my 50s in a small town,” she says. “I hear things – mostly about kids and drugs. I talked with my brother, and in December we went to a shop and bought a .38 Beretta. He made sure I practiced with it and was confident and comfortable enough to pull the gun out.” But the gun has changed her life, she says. “I listen at night and am always thinking about what might happen. The gun is within reach and the magazine is full. I think it is horrible. It makes me feel out of control. It scares me even though I’m quite competent in its use.”
Many men and women keep secret their decision to own a weapon or simply don’t think it is important to talk about what they see as a practical necessity. Many others would never own a gun, consider the current arms race a baffling fad, and think gun owners are in much more danger of accidental or impulsive harm than likely to ward off an assailant.