by “Cat” Babione
I stand alone at the crowded Cabela’s gun counter. I’ve already spent hours researching what I want for my first handgun before I arrived here and have mostly decided which gun is the gun, yet the selection remains overwhelming. My boyfriend, having succumbed to the many manly wonders of such a place as Cabela’s, has already ditched me for fishing rods and bait tackle. Good to know, I’m just below fish.
A quick scan of my fellow customers and I count only one other woman among us, busily displaying disinterest at the expense of her cell phone’s battery. Another scan, this time of the employees, one of which will be the one to help me on this momentous endeavor and once again, all men–the only female is working the checkout register. Great. I’m excited and intimidated. Confident yet flustered. I can feel the curious looks from the other patrons brush over me and I suddenly feel extremely out of place in my fur trimmed black puff y jacket. “Stop it.” I think to myself before I completely freak out.
“I belong here too.” I love my boyfriend, however much he doesn’t understand about being a woman and my sudden resentment of fish. He’s forever asking me, “Why did you lock the door? I just went into the garage for a minute.” “Why can’t we sleep with the windows open at night?” “Why do you lock your car when it’s IN the garage?” “My gun is in the night stand. Just grab it if someone breaks in.” His fortunate childhood consisted of wide open ranches in Fallon, NV and banjo playing boonies outside of Marysville, CA where he actually did walk miles and miles to school, uphill, both ways, in the rain. (The use of Kleenex-boxes for shoes is still up for debate, however.) In sharp contrast, my childhood in the Lettuce Capital of the World, Salinas, CA, consisted mainly of paved city streets, fog, and a gang problem so bad drive-by shootings and fire-bombings were child’s play, literally.
Locking my doors and windows, even when my boyfriend is outside rummaging through the garage, is so second nature I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Well maybe sometimes I do, aft er all, he did ditch me for fish. Anyway, It’s just what you do in my family. You learn what you live, I guess. If you open it, you close it. If you turn it on, you turn it off . If you unlock it, you lock it. Simple enough.
My family to this day has a secret word that we, as children, were to ask for if ever a stranger approached under the guise of an emergency with a family member. As a child, I heeded the stranger danger public service announcements with vigor. Oh, you don’t know the secret word? No dice, dude!
In my child mind, the Boogeyman lurked everywhere. Some people would say my family was paranoid raising me like that, my boyfriend included. I say they did the right thing. The Boogeyman does lurk everywhere. I’ve seen him with my own eyes–Fingerprinted him, even. I’ve sat face to face with him with nothing but a desk between us while he tried to explain away his Boogeyman deeds. The Boogeyman is why I lock out my boyfriend religiously and without realizing. The Boogeyman is why I decided to take my back-of-the-mind awareness of his existence to the forefront and learn how to really protect myself. Protect myself in a way so that if the Boogeyman ever does break in, I can do more than throw a plastic case with an unloaded gun in it and hope it hits him in his fat head.
I’m fortunate though. I’ve been able to keep the Boogeyman out of my 10 feet of recommended defensive space thus far, something not so for many people, men and women. That’s not to say he hasn’t come around just enough in my life lest I forget he’s always there. He’s shown up at my childhood home as my best friend’s ex-boyfriend toting a .357 revolver. I was 13 and hid in a back room gripping a butcher knife with white knuckles. He appeared as a boyfriend years ago when aft er a shouting match he placed his hands around my neck and squeezed. A month before I got married to my future ex-husband, he befriended my drunk fiancé at a bar and convinced him to let him stay the night at our house. When I tried to send him on his merry way, he started an argument with the drunk fiancé, leaving it to me to act. Me, all of 5 feet 7 inches 130 lbs. against a Boogeyman of over 6 feet. To this day I remember the split second decision to posture and assert myself, “YOU NEED TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” I screamed with instant belief that I was going to win only because I had to win.
And most recently, when I started to succumb to the idea that maybe I really am just paranoid and got relaxed about assuring my own security. The garage door stayed open one night and allowed said Boogeyman and his sticky fingers to roam the inside of it and my car and take what he pleased. I slept with my dog alone and unknowingly just 40 feet away in my bedroom next to my unarmed nightstand. To this day, I can’t say for sure if the door into my house was even locked. The ramifications of which hit me like a wrecking ball.
“Never again.” I told myself.
Until that moment I had never totally understood how many times I had truly been a victim. Had I just suppressed these Boogeyman moments because I’m a woman and that’s what we like to do? Had I just thought it was a normal part of life? I don’t know but I refuse to believe that there is even one woman alive today who has never come face to face with evil, no matter how seemingly insignificant the encounter. I challenge every woman to evaluate their life and acknowledge these events as well.
A year ago, a good friend told me about this awesome class she took to learn about handguns. A women ONLY class. I was immediately impressed. A search of the website and it’s true! The Women’s Shooting Academy offered a women-only Introduction to Handguns course taught by Vicki Kawelmacher, a bad a** looking lady posed smiling with a large handgun. Heck yes! I want to be her when I grow up! Where do I sign?
I had only a “passive knowledge” of guns, i.e. male handed me loaded gun, I shot loaded gun until unloaded, male took unloaded gun from me. The determination to trade my “passive knowledge” of guns for a true, working knowledge of guns possessed me completely. I made myself a promise. I would take an active responsibility to ensure my own safety. Finally, it was class day at The Women’s Shooting Academy. Twelve of us ladies, all different ages and I found myself overwhelmed with pride. We were there to learn and empower ourselves. I realized I’m not paranoid after all. I’m prepared. The mystery of what a man does when he takes the unloaded gun from my hands was revealed. I no longer need him to walk me through the masculine world of firearms. I can walk on my own now thanks to Vicki and her outstanding team. I belong here too. That’s how I got here. At the Cabela’s gun counter. That’s how I end up with the gun, a beautiful Sig Sauer P238 .380. Imagine that. A gun that’s beautiful.
I love my gun. I love that it’s MY gun. I love the quiet weight of it in my hands. I love knowing how to USE my gun. I love knowing how to use OTHER guns. I love knowing that I have a good fighting chance of protecting myself if ever the occasion arises. I love that The Women’s Shooting Academy exists so that other women, like me, can empower themselves. And I imagine I will also love the moment that Boogeyman dares show his face again and he says with fear, “Oh my god, she’s got a gun.” Because we belong here too
I come from a HUGE family and work as a civilian in law enforcement. Several members of which were or are currently police officers. It’s why I think I never developed an irrational fear of guns but I also never knew how to use them independently. After having a few scary moments in my life and just working in law enforcement in general, I knew I had to get serious about knowing how to protect myself. I can’t wait to learn as much as I can about it and hopefully, I can help encourage other women to do the same.
“To disarm the people is the most effectual way to enslave them.” – George Mason