We humans are curious critters, and that curiosity is part of why we now sit at the apex of the food chain. So it’s only to be expected that people who don’t own guns may be curious about why you do. If you’re the kind of NRA Woman who is “out of the gun safe,” then chances are that you’ve been asked, “But why do you own guns?”
That question can leave us feeling defensive. The key point to remember is that when people ask us that question, they are usually not attacking us. What they’re doing is inviting us to get on their level for a dialogue, and that’s an invitation that we should RSVP “yes” if we feel up to doing so. The trouble for many of us is that our initial reasons for owning a gun are difficult to talk about.
The truth is that many of us NRA Women didn’t start out thinking of ourselves as “gun owners” or “non-gun-owners.” Many of us started on this path by thinking of ourselves as “victims,” and many of us have a painful story behind that. So it can be tough, sometimes, to give someone a truthful “why” without having to relive that painful story.
If any of the above describes you, know that you are in excellent company. Also know that you don’t have to answer anybody’s questions about why you own guns if you don’t want to. You owe no explanations, you owe no justifications, and you owe no apologies. However, if you are “out of the gun safe” and wish to serve as an ambassador for the Second Amendment, you can #SpeakYourTruth without revealing more than you’re comfortable with.
One of the easiest ways to do that is to simply reframe the question. This may seem overly simplistic, even childish, but give it a try: The next time someone asks you why you own guns, ask them why not. The First Amendment protects your right to go to whatever church you would like (or none at all)—when was the last time someone asked you why you worship?
Another way to #SpeakYourTruth is to speak to generalities, rather than to the specifics of what led you to gun ownership. So instead of replying, “I was mugged,” you can reply, “Because law enforcement officers are bound by the same rules of space and time as the rest of us, and they simply can’t stop a mugger if they aren’t there. That means it’s up to me.”
Current events also offer up a way to talk about gun ownership and our reasons for exercising our rights. Think of it metaphorically; think of crime as a pandemic. Think of all of the law-abiding citizens around you as the herd that needs protecting from the crime-virus. Then think of the armed citizens around you as adding to herd immunity. This metaphor, by the way, is an excellent way of describing the truth: When polled, violent criminals almost universally say that armed citizens are the biggest deterrent to their predatory ways. When asked “why,” you can truthfully reply, “I own guns because the fact that I do makes all of us, including you, less likely to be victimized.”
Then there’s my personal favorite way to answer the question, in an homage to George Mallory. When asked why he climbed Everest, he replied, “Because it’s there.” When asked why I own guns, I frequently answer in similarly simple fashion: “Because I can.”
That simplicity is deceptive. “Because I can” includes centuries of American history tempered with the best of Western thought. It’s the idea that our governments do not give us rights, nor do our family and friends. We are born with our rights, and the U.S. Constitution guarantees them. I can own guns for the same reason I can breathe, and I choose to do both for the same reason: I want to live.
Whether you exercise your right to free speech to defend your right to bear arms is up to you. How much information you reveal about why is up to you. Just know that although you may have dozens of reasons to own guns, you don’t actually need any of them. “Because I can” is plenty.