I’m a “Hippie Liberal” Mom and No One Knows I Own Guns…Until Now
I grew up in the suburbs of California, surrounded by fellow progressives and liberals who also champion civil rights, access to justice, and the role of the government in providing a social safety net.
I’m the mom who hosted a lot of playdates at my house because I was worried other parents had guns in their houses. I’m probably the last person you think would own guns. Yet I left the suburbs and now live in the country.
When we moved here, I reluctantly agreed to purchase a shotgun and a handgun for self-defense. I resisted the idea when my husband first brought it up because I worried about gun safety with kids in the house, as well as what owning a gun would signal about me.
After we talked it over, I realized it makes sense when you live in a rural area that doesn’t have its own police force. The county sheriff might take 30 minutes or more to get to us. If someone wanted to harm us, help might not arrive in time.
We also know many other residents do have guns. We never heard gunshots when we lived in the suburbs. It’s far more common out here in the country.
I thought of all of this after I read William Spivey’s essay, “Should Every Black Adult Own a Gun?” His powerful essay focuses on the history of violence against Blacks in the U.S. and the laws and practices that kept Blacks unarmed.
William said, “My preference would be to live in a place where guns were few and laws strict. But that isn’t America, where anyone can get a gun and using it against me might not carry a penalty.”
As an Asian American, I don’t have that same history nor the same target on my back. Yet his message resonated with me as someone nervous about being defenseless when so many people own guns in the U.S. Moreover, American history reminds us again and again that mobs respond with violence when they want to drive BIPOC residents out of their community.
My tiny town is more than 90% white. I know of one black family and one other Asian American family here. This is a very different demographic compared to the suburbs we left. It makes me wonder whether folks would stand up for us and help protect us if the s — hits the fan.
We are too small to elect any officials, as we’re part of the unincorporated county, so I can only guess what my neighbors’ political views are based on the NextDoor posts vehemently opposing the school bond and government taxes. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of the residents are politically conservative and own guns.
William shared a sobering statistic in his essay:
In 2017, America had approximately 326 million people that owned 393 million firearms. More guns than people. Most by far owned by white people. It seems every event that suggests guns or bullets may be harder to come by, white people rush to their local Walmart or gun shop to buy even more guns and ammo because you can never have enough.
We own a shotgun, a handgun, and a “Henry lever-action rifle” (it looks like an old-fashioned rifle). That’s three firearms for our family of four. It must mean there are gun owners out there with multiple firearms.
I have not shared my gun ownership with anyone in real life. I’m sure my parents would freak out, worried about their grandchildren (who are now teens) even though we have a biometric gun safe that only opens for my husband and me.
I haven’t told my friends, as I think they would also look at me with surprise (and maybe even with a little horror?). Let’s be honest. The mass media paints gun owners as uneducated, working-class, conservative white men who are angry at the world. No one pictures an over-educated, upper-class, progressive Asian American woman as a gun owner.
I’ve been to the gun range a few times and only occasionally saw women (usually accompanied by a man). I rarely saw BIPOC men, let alone BIPOC women. As William observed:
I got a chance to observe the other people at the range co-located with a gun shop. White people were comparing weapons, marveling at the magazine capacity, and debating accuracy vs. precision. I made a note of the number of short people present, perhaps compensating for some perceived deficiency. Some people were wearing at least partial camouflage outfits and a few MAGA hats. Many of them looked exactly like the kind of people I would be concerned about walking around armed.
I’ve seen several large (oversized?) pick-up trucks with giant tires drive by me with two massive flags mounted in the truck bed — one an American flag and the other a Trump flag. It’s a bit intimidating as the trucks tower over little sedans and normal size SUVs. I imagine the drivers own guns as I’m sure that’s part of their own definition of what a patriot looks like.
I now prefer to practice shooting at home, as we have a large lot and my husband set up an outdoor range on the hill behind our home. It’s not something I enjoy doing, though. It still feels so alien to me to shoot a gun. Yet my husband reminds me that if I don’t shoot, I won’t be prepared if I ever need to use it.
My husband taught both our girls to shoot. They practice target shooting with a Henry rifle. Before he set up our outdoor range, he took our older daughter to the range to shoot a handgun (the younger one wasn’t old enough yet).
I think it’s part of a bigger philosophy to introduce them to a wide range of activities that are traditionally considered “male pursuits.” He also takes them fishing, plays first-person shooter video games with them, and does martial arts with them. I’m glad that he is introducing them to a wide range of options and that my daughters are comfortable trying out these often gendered hobbies.
In that same vein, perhaps I shouldn’t be so secretive about owning guns? It might help break stereotypes that a feminist mom like me owns guns. But I know I still feel uncomfortable talking about gun ownership because of the stigma associated with it. I also don’t know that I want to encourage gun ownership. I wholeheartedly believe in strong gun safety laws and utterly despise how the NRA operates. I don’t think any civilian needs an assault rifle or semi-automatic/automatic firearms.
What do you think? Should more gun owners speak out so non-gun owners don’t assume we love the NRA and want assault rifles in every American home?