Should You Get a Gun For Self-Defense?

February 27, 2012  |  

Last week, I read a provocative piece from Thembi Ford of Clutch Magazine, called “Is It Okay to Own a Gun?

Ford writes that she felt compelled to pose this question after an incident where a close friend of hers was forced to brandish a gun at a lurker outside of her first floor apartment window. Ford writes, “She waved the man off, yelled for him to go away, and put a stern look on her face. That didn’t work, so she pulled out her gun and pointed it at him. That still didn’t make him leave (she ended up calling the police, who escorted him away), but it scared me plenty.”

Yeah that would scare me too.  I thought this was interesting because just the day before reading it, I was on the phone with my younger brother, who asked me if I wanted to apply for a permit to carry.  This, of course, was coming from my brother, who just a year ago would have sworn off guns completely.  However that was before our hometown (Philadelphia) began to lead the nation in per capital murders. I could hear the angst in his voice as he recounted the tale of the teenage son of a cop, who had been murdered in a suspected gang initiation just feet away from his job.  My brother, who is a father of three boys and a little girl, worries constantly about the prospects of having a gun in the house. But that day, he began to ponder their safety without a gun in the house.  I worry too – not just only about my brother, his wife and my niece and nephews but my own security.

Many people, particularly women, fear guns. The perception is that only criminals, street gangs and white male patriotic right-wing nuts want to own a gun. Black women, as a whole, seem entirely absent from the gun discussion.  In fact, Tyler Perry’s Madea only pulls her piece for comic relief. Prior to Zoe Saldana big gun-toting in Columbiana, the only other time I can remember seeing a Black woman packing serious heat in popular movies was Pam Grier in Coffy and Foxy Brown.  And when Rihanna sung about shooting down the guy that sexually assaulted her, that image was demonized and completely banned from television.

However, women, particularly women who live alone, don’t have the luxury of fear.  I remember being a teenager in Philadelphia, coming home from work at night; I got off the bus at the corner, which dropped me off around the corner from my house.  I was met and accosted by a guy, who smelled of a mixture of weed and liquor. He pulled out a gun, stuck it in my side and pushed me into the shadows, away from public view.  And as I pulled off my rings and necklace and emptied my change purse for the little bit of cash I carried, the perpetrator went on about how he normally doesn’t like to stick up “sistas” but he really needed the money now. I can still feel the brisk Fall wind on my sleeveless arms as he snatched my leather bomber and then ran off like a literal thief in the night.

That robbery occurred almost two decades ago. Reading the newspaper and watching the local news of home invasions, subway near death beatings and women being brutally attacked in their homes, I am certain that my own personal fear is grounded and shared by a collective conscious of many women, who truly don’t feel safe in their environments. According to statistics from both the Violence Policy Center and the National Organization for Women (NOW), somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes. In 2009, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner, which averaged to around three women per day.  And of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third was killed by an intimate partner.Young women, low-income women and some minorities are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and rape, with African-American women facing higher rates of domestic violence and murder than white women.

Yet, conventional wisdom says that owning guns doesn’t necessarily make you less of a target for domestic violence, rape and murder. Even using our best preventive measures we learned as young girls, you cannot predict or even stop a perpetrator hell bent on causing harm. Likewise, women victims of domestic violence living with a gun in the home were three times as likely to be murdered as women who were not. Not to mention that from 2001 through 2007, over 4,900 people in the United States died from unintentional shootings, with 8% of such shooting deaths resulting from shots fired by children under the age of six. That’s why the decision to carry or have a gun in the household should not be taken lightly. And whether it’s a gun, martial arts, pepper spray, or learning how to stop a perpetrator by jamming the biggest key on your key ring in his/her eye, our self-defense is something that every woman shouldn’t take for granted neither.

And it appears that women are becoming a little more conscious to their safety concerns.  A 2009 study has found 70 percent of shop owners are seeing more female buyers than ever before, as reported by the Washington Times. As of right now, I am not among those women, although I plan on owning a gun in the near future. Recently I found a letter stuffed into my mailbox from our district police department alerting us residents to a series of home burglaries in our neighborhood.  The letter wanted us to be aware and take prevention measures. I will not say for sure that owning a gun would prevent someone from breaking into to my house when I’m not there however I really don’t want to be home alone in the house without a gun if a break-in happens too. It’s all about options, you know?

And while I am not a official gun owner, my brother and I have been going to the range since my 34th birthday to both practice target shooting and familiarize ourselves with firearms. This has given me a newfound respect for guns. Not necessarily because I feel powerful holding a pistol or revolver but because I now realize the immense responsibility that comes from being a gun owner.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.


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  • Getting a gun is not the answer. The NRA loves to preach the false doctrine about arming more good guys as a way of offsetting the criminals who have guns. It’s lies.  Guns do more harm than good, no matter how you slice it.

    Please come visit my blog.  We’re among the few who try to put a reasonable light on this subject that is overwhelmed with fear-driven and self-justifying propaganda.

  • MixedUpInVegas

    Oh yeah, I have a gun!  We live in the west–everyone has guns and rifles.  I don’t carry it because I haven’t yet qualified for a concealed carry permit.  My husband and I have personal firearms and a rifle in the house.  Our children are long grown and gone.  We have both taken classes in gun safety and shooting.  We practice at a firing range.  Our guns are registered.  The possession of firearms is a self-defense issue.

    I think it is safe to assume that an uninvited “guest” entering your home in the dark of night is a threat to your personal safety.  That being so, I’d not hesitate to shoot him/her.

  • Guest

    I’m from the south and we definitely believe in the right to bear arms. I carry a fire arm and go to the gun range. I feel that women shouldn’t be afraid to own guns. Many courses are offered to women on how to use a gun, how to defend yourself, etc. But racial disparity between white and black women gun owners is a great. At least from my pov. When I attend, “Ladies Night,” I hardly run into other black women but I run into white women of all age. I think women of color need to get with the program. But also, know that owning a gun comes with great responsibility. You are responsible for every bullet in that gun and you need to be aware that you should only use it when your life is threatened and also be prepared to cause some serious damage to another human being. Guns are not toys and should never be taken lightly or treated as such. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to own one. However, before you make a purchase, make sure you educate yourself as much as possible and choose the right one for you.

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  • pearl handle

    I have had a gun since i moved into my first apartment. Its not about waiting for somebody to ‘make your day’ or living in fear of ‘just in case’. If thats the only reason a person has 1 they arent prepared to use it if the situation arised. I enjoy going to the gun range and I also feel more at ease as a single woman traveling alone. Besides criminals have them why can’t a law abiding citizen like myself.

  • EducBlkMan

    Even with proper gun training there are two things essential to not becoming a victim. Pay attention to your surroundings and possess the intent to kill. You should not have a weapon if you will hesitate to use it.

  • IllyPhilly

    No, just get a gun to match your shoes. WTF? YES get five guns. The world is even sicker than ever. You need to win hearts and minds. Two in the heart and one in the mind.

    • REGAL

      I’m so lucky where I live (England) guns are illegal…even our police do not carry guns. There are a handful of gun crimes a year in my country and if there is a gun incident, it would make national news. Without guns, we are able to fend off crime and by God’s grace I personally never needed to use a gun because we have great policing. I feel safe and we walk our streets without having to worry about a psycho shooting at us. Everyday I read about shootings in the US and I pity people who have to live in fear like that. I know that my country is smaller than the US but even Australia as big at it is don’t have guns in every home. If I lived in the US, I don’t think I would feel safe living in a home with a gun… partners killing each other, children shooting their parents and all that drama. No thanks for me.

      • Tanstaafl2

        …and if you are small, old, frail, female, handicapped, outnumbered, or otherwise at a disadvantage, you’re at the mercy of the criminals – since they are more powerful than you.  Nice to know you have such faith in the good will of some drunken rapist or hoodie thug.  

        “Now that’s not very nice, luv, cus me ‘n the lads just wanted to “socialize” wif yer  young daughter.  And Willy here – you went an hurt HIS feelings when you called him a bloody drunken yob (and in front of his mates too!) after he puked on yer car’s windscreen.  Seems you’ve left him no choice but to kick in the boot and all the doors, then knock you about a bit (or a lot) to re-establish his self esteem.  But don’t you worry yerself, pet, I’m sure a bobby’ll be right along (in about an hour or three) to set us straight.  After all, there’s not a chance he’s not chatting up his mates about the 20 quid   he won on Manchester United last night, when he should be watching those pretty cameras on the street corner.”

        Nope – you’re lucky, indeed, to live in merry old England, where you’re too civilized to let honest folks have guns and the thugs don’t need them.

      • American

        London has a higher violent crime rate than NYC. Ask anyone in London about knife crime, or having the govt mandate plastic beer glasses in pubs because the damage done with them. Objects are not violent, people are.

      • IllyPhilly

        Wow that is a fairy tale here. Parents shoot kids for throwing snowballs at their kids.

  • Tanstaafl2

    Be careful about taking data from the Violence Policy Center at face value – they’ve been chastised by the FBI and the BATFE several times for lying and so selectively mining data as to be the next best thing to lying. 

    On another note, other groups not traditionally associated with legal gun ownership (city dwellers, white women, black men, gays, etc.) have expressed their pleasant surprise when, upon venturing into this new realm, they received a warm and welcome reception from the “Gun Crowd”.  

  • sweettea

    I have 3 pistols and a shotgun. My kids take gun safety training. We hike and camp all the time and there is no way I’m going heads up with a mountain lion. If I think I might be attacked I will shoot first and ask questions later

  • Pivyque

    I think that is the most ridiculous thing that I have heard. Lol Attract the things/situations you want in life? Not all the time. If someone is victimized, the did not attract that situation. That’s like saying you don’t have some form of birth control because it may attract sex… If a man breaks into my house one night with the intention of harming me, I will shoot him. No questions asked. We have a right to feel safe in our homes.

    • LisaLuvless

      Of course you would look for the worst in what I said,but that’s the way you think so maybe those will be the situations you attract to yourself. *shrug* What’s ridiculous to you might work for others,like myself.
      I govern myself by what I believe and my life works just fine that way. I rather not carry a weapon or have one.



        • LisaLuvless

          Caps don’t make your comment any more true and it not making sense to you still doesn’t make it any less true for me.

      • Pivyque

        I’m not saying that you need to have a weapon. If that works for you, that’s great. I have never had to use my weapon. It’s just knowing that if I have to deal with a situation, I can handle it. You never know how long the police are going to take. I have a family to protect and I want to be prepared to do that if I need to.

  • Lslmoo4

    I own a gun, I purchased it after my neighbors were robbed.  I live alone, thus at this point, rather have the option of protecting myself than just being a victim.  I go to target practice and taking lessons in firearm safety and usage.   Surprisingly, i am in classes with 11 and 12 year old kids.  So we as black people are behind the times in comparison to our white counterparts as far as gun usage and owership goes.


    I packs a pistol. i do i do i do i do *shrug*

  • LisaLuvless

    For you..maybe : shoulder shrug:
    For me, no thanks. Have you ever heard of the secret to life; You attract the things/situations you want in life. If I get a gun, I’ll some how have to use it and I don’t want to kill or injure anyone OR have to explain HGWB-having a gun while black.