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A mother sticks to her choice to keep a handgun handy

A mother sticks to her choice to keep a handgun handy
by Stephanie Madison

There was a time when I believed having a gun in the same house where children reside was not only unsafe but was bordering on recklessness. Mothers shouldn't own guns.

A single mom, I was accustomed to being alone. I don't remember being afraid. I left my windows open in the summer; I liked to breathe the crisp night air. I won't say I was careless; saying that would assume blame. A person should be able to leave a door or window open without signaling an invasion. No, I wasn't careless.

I worked late. It was dark when I got home. I was carrying my 2-year-old, a diaper bag, a purse, my paycheck in my teeth. I stepped into the darkness and heard what I thought was the answering machine clicking. I stopped. It was too loud. Someone was in my house.

I dropped everything except my daughter. I drove to my mother's house nearby and called the police. A stranger had been in the house but nothing seemed to be missing. Probably just some kids, police assured me.

That night as I undressed for bed I pulled open my top drawer. It didn't occur to me at first. I dug through the drawer almost frantically. Missing were garter belts and stockings, teddies and underwear. I was actually sort of scared.

The next day, at the urging of a girlfriend, I learned to shoot a gun.

I could feel the power of the handgun as I shot the silhouette target in the neck and head. I remember holding the gun, knowing it had the power to kill. I didn't like it.

My friend told me to take the gun ... just in case.

"No," I said, "I have kids." The argument lasted 30 minutes.

Finally, she took my hand gently, "It will be OK. Take the gun."

I don't know if it was her voice or her expression - but I took the gun.

Three days later I awoke to a man crawling into my bedroom.

It was about 5 a.m. It was still dark. He bumped the door with his shoulder and I remember my eyes opening wide as I struggled to focus. I reached under my mattress grabbed the loaded gun, and sat straight up. I did it instantly.

I jumped out of bed as the man rose to his feet and took a step toward me. I pulled back the hammer.

He threw his arms into the air, "No! Don't shoot! My friend is in the living room with your kid."

My hand was steady even as my mind raced around his words. He backed up into the wall.

"Who are you?" I yelled.

"I'm, I'm," he stammered, "I'm friends with Jeff."

Jeff, Jeff, Jeff, Jeff who? I don't know any Jeff. Do I know a Jeff? I certainly didn't want to shoot someone I knew.

I stood before this man, my gun loaded and aimed directly at him. A voice came from somewhere inside me, "Move! Now!"

I had never heard that voice before, nor have I heard it since. It was loud and strong and deep.

I wanted to pull the trigger as I followed him down the hall, into the living room, out the front door. I wanted to shoot him as he scurried and slipped on the wet grass in the front yard.

He didn't touch me. He didn't rape me. He wasn't allowed to. I had a gun. He didn't. I kept the power he had come to ruthlessly steal.

He is now serving a 106-year sentence for the subsequent rapes of four other women. All single moms, all non-gun owners. Sometimes I think of those women. When I do, I feel almost guilty I didn't pull the trigger.

I am not a member of the NRA. I don't picket or protest. I listen quietly as you tell me I shouldn't have a gun. I accept the flyers you send home from school stating the dangers of handguns but omitting the possible benefits.

Don't I care about the safety of my children? It is something you want to know.

My kids know not to touch my gun. I know my kids and I trust they never will.

I do not suggest every parent should own a gun. I can only speak for myself, from my experience. Unless you have lived my experience, please don't speak for me.

Socially acceptable or not, I will never be without a gun. I am a responsible mother.


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Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it. JUSTICE LEARNED HAND

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