"But why would you want to carry a gun around with you all the time?" my friend asked, eyebrows drawn close in sincere bewilderment. "I just don't get why you feel you need to," she continued, sipping her latte. "It's not as if you're some kind of private eye or anything."
My friend is a kind, thoughtful person and she meant no disrespect to me or my beliefs; her genuine confusion and concern about my decision to carry concealed is rooted in deep-seated cultural beliefs that are still prevalent despite the fact that the rate of gun ownership among American women is skyrocketing. These ingrained attitudes are the result of several factors, including the frequently unfavorable depictions of gun ownershipin popular media as well as cultural expectations about gender roles. This means that many people aren't really even consciously aware of the biases that they're bringing to bear when considering the topic of women and armed self-defense. That's why it's so important that we women gun owners be good ambassadors for our beliefs, especially when we're talking to other women. Here are some tips that you might find helpful if you ever find yourself in a conversation with your female friends about concealed carry.
1. Stay positive. You may have heard the phrase "the power of positive thinking," and it's a good one to keep in mind. You know that your reasons for owning and carrying a firearm are positive, so be sure to use positive language to express them. "Being responsible for my own safety is empowering," you might say, or "I like knowing that I can protect my family; it makes me feel safer."
2. Listen more than you talk. The best conversationalists in the worlds are the best listeners. When you're talking to a female friend who is dubious about the whole concept of firearm ownership, ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions about why she feels this way...and listen to her responses. Do your best not to spend the time she's talking thinking of what you're going to say in reply. Using this method, I learned that the friend I mentioned earlier had been mugged at gunpoint when she was a teenager, and the experience traumatized her. This helped me to understand that her fearful reaction to guns was not completely under her conscious control, and that I should not take it personally.
3. Know the facts...but pay attention to feelings, too. One hurdle to helping your friends understand why you carry concealed is that many people hold some pretty strong misconceptions about guns, gun ownership and concealed-carry. We've compiled a resource of gun facts here, and it's good to have them to hand, but remember that for many people—women and men—it's as much about feelings as it is about facts. Emotions aren't always rational, so responding to them by rattling off a list of statistics isn't going to help. Instead, connect on an emotional level. When your friend says, "Aren't you afraid that the gun might go off by itself?" instead of responding with all the mechanical reasons that just doesn't happen, you might reply, "No, there's nothing scary about it...I'm far more afraid of having a tire blow while I'm driving, because that's infinitely more likely." Then you can follow up with the information later.
4. Keep your emotions under control. The Second Amendment enumerates an inherent right with which we are born, and it can be difficult to stay dispassionate when other people talk about gun ownership as if it were a privilege. However, if you allow the discussion to turn into an argument, it's possible that you'll accidentally cement negative attitudes about gun ownership in your friend's mind. Stay calm, and remember that this person is your friend. If you think the conversation's getting heated, change the subject to something else.
5. Stand behind your words. One of the most powerful and profound ways in which people's long-held opinions can be changed is for them to have a personal experience that contradicts that opinion. If your friend is open to the idea, why not take her to a shooting range so she can find out for herself what it's like? Once she discovers that owning and shooting guns can be a fun, positive experience—and that many of the things she's been told by the media aren't true at all—she may be much more open to learning more. Here are some tips to help make a newbie shooter's experience positive. You might even consider taking her to a Women on Target event, so she'll be surrounded with other women as she experiences firearm use for the first time.
With a healthy dose of compassion and respect, you and your friend may just wind up with a new activity to enjoy together!