Some time after I was sexually assaulted, I went to a Los Angeles gun range. I wanted to go there to reclaim a sense of security and to get my power back. Someone was gracious enough to take me there and to walk me through the process.
I had protracted and perpetual fears of another attack. These fears fueled my flawed perception that if I personally possessed a gun, I would be able to protect myself from any future violation. The rapid P.T.S.D. nightmares that would regularly wake me were unbearable.
Shooting a gun at the gun range seemed like a logical way to add to my ongoing mission of fortress building. Since I have family and friends that are responsible gun owners, the idea of personally owning a firearm was not entirely foreign to me.
However, what was disturbing at the gun range was not the target practice of responsible gun owners. It was the hyper macho gun culture that was palpable there. Sickeningly, one of the targets that shooters could use was a cutout of a headless woman's body. To use a religious allegory, it was an idolatrous environment that festered a lust for power and destruction. While I utilized the range as a space to make myself feel safe, it was simultaneously a rage den for disaffected men. A misogynist, anger filled boy could elevate his ego by shooting at a defenseless outline of a woman, for fun.
This was a stark difference from the attitudes of gun owners like my friends and family. These people live in rural communities where guns are needed to protect them from dangerous wildlife. Guns are also needed as supplemental protection if the local small town police force is unable to arrive quickly should there be a home intrusion. They are not going to use the weapons against loved ones, but rather to protect their loved ones.
Essentially, they took the Driver's Ed courses for the car and are responsible with the vehicle.
Those same things cannot be said for the perpetrators of the never ending onslaught of gun violence. Particularly, those that commit intimate partner violence and mass shootings. They are drunk from the wells of rage and misogyny that routinely go unchecked in our culture. Nearly, every school shooting has the identical energy of an angry boy or man with a distorted view of masculinity. He releases his unchecked rage by taking it all out on the innocent.
Did anyone teach these shooters how to be a man, to respect themselves, to respect women, and to respect their fellow human beings? It's doubtful.
After much consideration, I opted not to get a gun. I found that my bunker mentality only made me more paranoid and hostile. Rather than feeling safe in my home or in society, my obsession with arming myself ultimately made me feel more frightened of the world.
What would make me feel safer is a paradigm shift in the culture. What if all men took communal responsibility for the development of young men? What if our pop culture, our media, our pulpits, our homes, our sports teams and their owners were conscious of this task. Then cultural prevention can dovetail with effective legislation.
We can teach boys how to be men by refusing to conflate manhood with gun violence. We can give boys and men tools and healthy resources to deal with their rage. We can certainly advocate preventing their access to guns in order to amplify that rage.
There are rules to drive a car. There are rules to fly a plane. There need to be the same type of rules to own and operate a gun.
Every responsible gun owner, non-gun owner, and politician alike should be a fervent supporter of background checks, limiting ammunition, banning manufacturing of assault weapons, and advocate for comprehensive mental health care. However, we can go even further. By admitting that easy access to hyper-macho gun culture emboldens angry males to commit atrocities, we can hope to pave the road to prevention.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.