My name is Mommy. At least 95 percent of the time it is -- other times, I'm lucky if my rambunctious preschooler isn't calling me by my first, middle and last name, like I do to her when she's on the hot seat. I'm a stay-at-home wife and mom to two little girls, age 4 years old and 6 months. And while I’m like many other moms across America, there is one little twist in my daily routine that may set me apart. When I go to the grocery store, I grab my car keys, my purse and I put on my holster. Yes, I am a mom with a gun. (Or possibly more than a few guns. But I'll never tell.)
So was my mom. And someday, my daughters may be too. Teaching them to handle guns responsibly is part of my way to help them stay safe and protect themselves.
As a girl, my mother always told my two sisters and me stories about growing up in the Arizona desert. A sidearm was just as important to her as her boots to protect herself from snakes and other unwelcome critters. No one questioned her when she holstered her daddy's revolver on her belt and went for a walk. She was trained and perfectly capable of using a gun to defend herself in a safe, effective manner. She raised me with the basic knowledge that a girl could safely protect herself by using all the tools in her “toolbox.” It's that vault of knowledge that sits on our shoulders, and when used properly, can give us awareness of our surroundings and a sense of when we are in danger.
I was about 7 when my mom taught me to shoot from the hip with a shotgun. I was also raised to believe that my inalienable right to have a gun was just another one of those tools. And now I’m continuing that education with my own daughters.
While I feel passionately that the Second Amendment is the part of our constitution that protects all of our other freedoms, what I feel it mainly protects, and represents, is simple American families like mine. I worry about the same things all moms do, from finances to what to cook for dinner. The only difference one may notice is that my 4-year-old daughter might complete her rendition of "Ring Around the Rosie" with the NRA's Eddie Eagle mantra: “Stop! Don't touch! Run away! Tell an adult!” (The Eddie Eagle Program is to teach kids what to do if they ever find a gun.)
While my husband and I believe she is too young to actually start shooting, she does have her very own toy rubber band gun, which she can only play with under our supervision. She is very proficient and smart about her safety. If you ask her what she can and can't shoot she will tell you: “I can't shoot people, pets, or TVs. But I can shoot at my target and at bugs.”
She has been learning the most valuable of gun safety rules -- like keeping her finger off the trigger and not pointing the gun in anywhere but a safe direction -- since she could talk. And if she maintains her maturity track, I’d bet by age 6 she will be ready for an Airsoft gun to shoot pellets at paper targets.
But is she a gun crazy kid because her parents have them? Absolutely not! She has never physically touched a real gun at this point. Yet she is a child with the basic knowledge of what to do if she ever encounters a gun when her parents aren't around. She is learning her safety before I ever even take her to the range for the first time.
I know there are some parents who have differing opinions about guns than I do -- but they never speak up to me. I actually wish they would at times instead of staying silent so they can at least learn that not all gun owners are bad parents for simply practicing that right.
When I hear about incidents, such as the one this week, where children have shot themselves or other children because they had access to a loaded gun, it always makes me cringe and hold my babies tighter. I know there is a better way and that starts with education from an early age -- not just education on how to shoot and make “Phew, Phew” noises. They get enough of that from television. I’m talking about a true education that begins with a healthy respect about what the gun is for and what it can do.
It is also my responsibility as a parent to first and foremost make sure my daughters don't have access to my guns at any time that I'm not with them supervising. Our guns at home are locked in safes that are behind doors that are also locked - and those locks are up high, out of the reach of a child. I trust my budding young shooter as much as I trust anyone, but put a plate of chocolate chip cookies in front of her and she will inevitably steal one. She's a 4 year old and hasn't developed the necessary skills of self control yet.
Many people have asked me when and how I talk with her about guns because they find it hard to break into those conversations with their kids. My answer is I take EVERY opportunity I can to talk with her about safety and I don't dodge her questions. While driving in the car, in between her little songs or telling me about how “Ben throwed up on the playground,” I'll ask her questions out of the blue, to take her off guard. “What would you do if you were at Natalie's house and she wanted to sneak into her parents’ dresser and you found a gun?” “What would you do if you were playing on the playground and found a gun?”
Scary questions, even to me, and I'm a woman who wears jewelry made out of ammo. But realistic questions. What makes me proud, and makes me know I'm doing the right thing are her clear, precise answers: If she finds a gun, she will stop. She will tell her friend to stop. She won't touch it and will tell her friend to not touch it. And she will take her friend with her to find an adult.
Some may think I'm trying to turn my daughter into a little sniper when she grows up, but I also talk to her about other “tools” of personal safety. Like what to do if a stranger tries to grab her or a friend. We take time to practice those scary scenarios. (It’s the only time she's allowed to play “Kick her mom” and she kisses and licks me to pretend she is biting the bad guy who just picked her up.)
I'm doing my best to ensure that when my daughters grow up, they will be knowledgeable in all the “tools” my mother taught me -- including shooting a fast-moving rattlesnake with a bad attitude.
Jennifer Galle is a NRA Basic Pistol instructor and the National Membership Director for the A Girl And A Gun Woman's Shooting League. In her free time she enjoys teaching other woman about guns and gun safety and competing in IDPA and USPSA competitive shooting matches. You can find her at www.agirlandagunclub.com and at www.womenssafetyacademytexas.com. She blogs at www.mommysjoy.com.