by Kate Dugger–
The world isn’t becoming any safer. Danger doesn’t lurk exclusively under the bed and in the shadows like it did when I was a little girl. As a photographer, I am often out in remote places before the sun comes up. I find myself in situations that are less than ideal for the sake of personal safety.
I frequent places that could be the setting for the opening scene of a horror movie. Seriously, these locations do make me a more easily accessible target. Being a woman and being alone in these types of locations just made the target a bit bigger. And if that wasn’t enough, 20 pounds of camera gear just lit the target up like a neon sign. In the same situation, a male photographer would likely be far less appealing to a human predator. Why? He is bigger and stronger than me. Also, around our region, a man is more likely to be armed. Someone looking for an easy target isn’t going to go after a man, when a woman, a much easier mark, is handy.
As far as personal safety is concerned, I was fairly irresponsible most of my life. I didn’t even buy pepper spray until I was 22 years old. I know most people feel that the Ken-Tenn area is extremely safe. I felt the same way, and I still do. But feeling secure made me complacent. I felt like I only needed to be wary when in big cities. In 2009, news broke about a serial rapist being loose in Martin, Tennessee; it hit our community like a bucket of ice cold water to the face.
You see, bad people don’t come exclusively from big cities, and the ones that do don’t stay within them. At this time, Kurt, my husband, and I decided that I should get my concealed carry permit. A single female friend decided she also wanted her permit. She lived in a neighborhood where she was constantly concerned about her personal safety, even in her own home.
Being a former Primary Marksmanship Instructor in the Marine Corps, Kurt felt right at home instructing us in the ways of firearm safety. I had never fired anything larger than a .22-caliber rifle at bean cans. My friend was so shaken the first time Kurt put an unloaded pistol in her hands that she teared up. After getting beyond the initial reservations, we learned proper safe handling of weapons, cleaning, disassembling and reassembling. It was still weeks before we considered firing anything. Safety is the most important thing to learn.
Target practice was carried out using two identical H&K .45-caliber pistols. For weeks, we trained with these pistols. Kurt insisted we use these pistols. His logic was twofold. First, if we could shoot a large caliber pistol, we would have many options to choose from when it came time to pick a personal carry piece. Second, a .45-caliber round has a great deal of stopping power. If, God forbid, I ever had to use my weapon, I might only get one shot: It had better count.
When the day came for our official Concealed Carry Permit Course, my friend and I were confident. We knew our pistols backward and forward, and we were eager to learn. Two thirds of the class was spent in a lecture, – going over laws, rights, legal information and proper safety instructions. When it came time for us to qualify on the range, our instructor mentioned that he had .22-caliber pistols available if anyone wanted to use smaller pistols. He glanced casually at us.
Out to the range we went. I shot 98% when all was said and done. My friend, no longer a teary- eyed newbie, shot an impressively tight grouping, and scored 100%. She still has the target. Upon receiving our documentation of completion, our instructor told us that we were the first women to complete his course using .45-caliber pistols.
Although I took a co-ed class, different schools in our area offer classes for women only. This is a great option for women who want to learn but might find being the only woman in her class intimidating. If I hadn’t had a friend to go with, I would have taken a women’s class.
Weeks later, my friend and I went shopping for her carry pistol. I had already purchased mine, a compact version of the H&K I qualified with. Every salesman we spoke to tried to sell us something in the way of a 9mm pistol. This is a smaller caliber. It would be more cost effective because the ammo is less expensive and the pistols are priced lower than larger pistols. These smaller options would be better than being caught unarmed in a threatening situation, but we were shopping for a .45. And the fact that everyone was trying to sell her something smaller because she was a woman was just irritating. As yet another sales clerk showed us a 9mm the conversation went like this.
“This is a 9mm. You don’t really need anything bigger than this,” he said. “It’s what I carry.”
“Really?” I said. “It sure is cute! I carry a .45.”
I looked at my friend and we moved on to another case, leaving the clerk standing there. In the end, she settled on a pistol identical to mine. We never leave home without them. My motivation to be armed increased with the birth of my son in 2015. I never want to be in a threatening situation and not be able to protect my child.
Saying you don’t need a pistol because you live in a safe town is like saying you’re not going to wear your seat belt because you’re a great driver and so are all the other drivers/texters on the road. By the way, there were 333,000 accidents caused by texting last year. According to a report released by the FBI in September of 2016, there were 1,197,704 violent crimes committed in 2015. I recommend wearing your seat belt and carrying a pistol.
Please take responsibility for your own safety. You have the right to life. You also have the right to defend it.