At this year’s 2017 USCCA Concealed Carry Expo in Fort Worth, Texas, I had the opportunity to lead a panel of women: five leaders and trailblazers in our industry who have each carved out unique paths but who all fight for the same 2nd Amendment goals. We explored a variety of topics — from working with female shooters to getting friends and family involved with safe firearms — but one question revealed some powerful and poignant answers … the type of answers that the anti-gun media tries to cover up or hide.
As we know, it has been said many times that a firearm is a great “equalizer,” a tool that can even the odds and possibly offer a fighting chance in a dangerous, life-threatening encounter. I brought up this quote to our five panelists and asked them what word or words they would use to describe what firearms mean to them.
Creator of Girl’s Guide to Guns and host of Love at First Shot, Natalie Foster was the first to answer. She said that to her, firearms meant “family.” As she described, in one way, a gun is a method of protection for those she loves and cares for, but in another way, a gun is often a common ground that she shares with thousands of like-minded individuals who have become, in many ways, like an extended family. I can assure you that the media would avoid this description at all costs. Their goal is to get others to believe that firearms isolate and alienate people … not connect them and bring them closer together.
Building on what Natalie said, the word “love” was Carrie Lightfoot’s answer. Carrie is the founder of The Well Armed Woman, and as she explained, a firearm can be one of the greatest means for showing how much you love someone and what you are willing to do for them. Interesting to note that the media typically uses the word “gun” with the words “violence,” “hate” or “danger.” Yet for Carrie — and for so many women in the industry — it is the word “love” that comes to mind when we consider the sacrifices we make to train with and carry a firearm for protection.
Panelist Julianna Crowder, founder of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League, said that for her, firearms meant “confidence.” And in her 11-year career as a firearms instructor, Julianna has seen, firsthand, thousands of men and women find the courage and self-assurance to live their everyday lives because they’ve trained to be safe and responsible with a gun. That’s something you won’t often hear on the evening news.
Antonia Okafor agreed and added that along with “confidence,” a firearm also means “safety.” She would know this well, as the founder of EmPOWERed, a national student organization that empowers, educates and equips young women on college campuses to have a firearm for self-defense. Antonia knows, as we all do, that a firearm is not a first choice, but it can often be a last resort … and the difference between life and death.
Founder and president of Nickel and Lace, Marilyn Smolenski, added her response that firearms mean “awareness.” As she pointed out, being armed requires a whole new level of responsibility, and situational awareness is a vital part of that. Being armed causes us to pay attention and to use our senses and our intuition to make smart decisions and, hopefully, to avoid potentially unsafe situations.
While the media prefers to ignore safe and responsible gun owners and would probably love to say that — for women especially — guns stand for vulnerability, negativity, insecurity, hatred and danger, our panel eloquently proved that this is NOT at all what trained, knowledgeable women would say. Beyond being the great equalizer, firearms mean a whole lot more to women and, no matter what the anti-gun media chooses to report, firearms can actually stand for some of the most important and positive aspects of life — confidence, safety, awareness, family and love.