After four years of healing – from the wounds themselves, post-traumatic stress, and a legal battle for compensation – Stroup still has trouble venturing out alone; much frightens her, from noises to crowds. "I'm afraid of someone taking out a gun," she says.
But she describes ways she's dismantling the fear, and one step Stroup has taken may seem counterintuitive: She bought a gun.
Even though the sight of a gun after the shooting made her shake, she now hopes that very thing will bring a peace of mind that will allow her to go out to a matinee with her grandchildren or to the grocery store.
"If I had had a gun, I would not have gotten shot. I don't think I would have frozen. I think the training to use that gun would have overrode the fear," Stroup says.
This is no knee-jerk conclusion; it's a rationale constructed through psychotherapy and soul-searching. Stroup – who calls her gun a "tool" rather than a "weapon" and sees pure logic rather than irony in her choice – believes it will reduce the fear that darkens her life.
Stroup's complicated experience may be unique, but her response is very American.
Owning guns for self-protection is a common American practice. A Gallup poll found in 2005 that in the 40 percent of American households that own a gun, 67 percent reported self-protection as a – if not the – reason. And in the immediate aftermath of the December Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting, a Pew Research Center poll found that a slim plurality – 48 percent – of Americans think gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 37 percent say it does more to put people's safety at risk.