By Susan Frances Bonner RN BSN, author of Opening A Registered Nurses Eyes; A life Altering Journey Across North America
Guns kill, guns are evil, and no law abiding self-respecting woman needs to own one. Words I had heard over and over again. Words I believed and lived by. Growing up in a small neighborhood on Long Island, NY; “gun” was a curse word
reserved for the media and criminals. If your father and uncles didn't hunt, you were likely never to see a real one except on TV. Life in the “burbs” never prepared me for rural life in North Florida or the fact that practically everyone living there carried a gun.
Moving to the country meant cleaner air, a simpler life, less noise. But it also meant you were pretty much on your own. Something I quickly realized living on our 5.5 acres outside Tallahassee, Florida surrounded by woods and swamps. Our nearest neighbor lived pretty far away and then there was the animal factor. Not the neighbor’s cute furry cat and sweet waging tailed dog. There were wild pigs that dug up your lawn looking for grubs, seven different kinds of venomous snakes, bobcats, black bear and of course; alligators.
Our property bordered the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and I was told early on to expect some visitors of the less cuddly type to our rural abode. And although this concerned me, I didn't run out and buy every weapon known to man and arm myself Rambo style. My husband however; a well traveled army guy and no stranger to guns, thought it was time to expose me to the Second Amendment. Knowing my gentile sensibilities and liberal upbringing, he bought one gun at a time.
The first was a shotgun; I could handle this. Well I’d seen old movies before and most old homesteads had at least a shotgun, yes I could handle this. He took me out to the back forty and gave me a lesson in gun safety and shooting. I was appalled by the power, force and yes; the loud sound it produced. But if a wild boar was chasing me out of my garden and a black bear was blocking my way to the house; a shotgun was what I wanted. So, I carried it slung over my shoulder, kept it by the bed or in the kitchen next to me when my husband went to town.
Slowly my husband acquired more firearms, mostly rifles, until one day he introduced me to the infamous handgun, the weapon of choice for every murderer, rapist and burglar. Again he gave me the safety course and shooting lesson. This weapon was a little more intimidating. This one I did not carry. But I found out that the gun did not go off by itself. Someone had to pull the trigger because guns don’t kill anybody sitting on a desk. That lesson was ingrained in me when one day while my husband was out in the garden. I picked up the handgun off of the living room table in an attempt to get more familiar with it and then dropped it on the floor, purely by accident. I was so terrified it would blow up I ran into our bedroom screaming! But nothing happened; it just lied there on the floor silent and not moving.
The final induction into “gunhood” came one day when while putting a roof on our wood shed, my husband heard ATV’s coming down an old road in the woods that ran through our property. Hearing voices I went to investigate and saw my husband standing between two young men on said ATV’s. The young men were arguing with him and posturing. Now my husband is burly and is six foot four and was holding a hammer in his hands, but I guess they were counting on strength in numbers.
No one noticed I was there so I ran to the house and instead of dialing 911, I grabbed the handgun. Pulse pounding in my ears I said a silent prayer that I wouldn’t have to use it and ran outside. Slowly I rounded the bend in the driveway and holding the gun out at my side asked sweetly, “Honey, is everything alright?” Everyone was startled. The young men noticed the gun in my hand and immediately and hastily apologized for trespassing. Then they turned their ATV’s around and left. My husband smiled with pride.
From that day forward a gun became a tool for me; to be used like a hammer or chain saw. Used only when needed. Used cautiously. And used with respect. I remember that day and think about the brave pioneer women who came to colonize this great country and who had to protect their homesteads, family and livestock against “all” with their meager guns. I think about them and thank the Founding Fathers that we still have the right to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with a firearm.