The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Gina Odom didn’t like guns until she felt that her baby’s safety was threatened.

Daniela Halliburton armed herself when she returned to a home ripped apart by Hurricane Katrina.

Susan Fowler and Mary (last name withheld) grew up with weapons in the house. Ask about their first guns, and their voices soften to describe cherished childhood memories.

Earlier this week, I posted a Facebook request to interview female gun owners. In two hours, more than 150 responded, including these four women. Like many who reached out, they are liberals, which is why I wanted to talk to them. We agree on many issues, but I do not share their comfort level with guns.

It is increasingly clear that for many — men and women, Democrats and Republicans — gun control is an issue of personal experience, not politics. We never are going to find common ground without trying to understand one another.

Odom is 40 and lives in Cordele, GA. She did not grow up with guns, but her husband did. To her initial dismay, when they bought a house, his guns moved in with them.

Odom changed her mind after an encounter with a stranger as she pushed her newborn daughter in a stroller.

“It was clear he’d been watching us,” she said. “He could describe my furniture. I was terrified. My husband was working nights. I went into mama bear mode. I told him, ‘I can’t be here alone at night with no way to defend myself.'”

She researched and bought a .22-caliber pistol. Her husband hung a man’s shirt for target practice. “If you can hit that shirt,” he told her, “you can protect yourself.”

Odom and her husband share the same politics, except on gun control. “We both voted for Obama, both times, but my husband is part of that culture of fear,” Odom said. “Like a lot of his friends, he’ll say, ‘Obama’s going to get our guns.'”

She blames the National Rifle Association. “I see the stuff he gets in the mail. They keep telling him, ‘If you give up any little right, the government will take away your guns.’ They’re promoting fear, and it shuts down the conversation.”

Mary, who asked that her last name not be used, is married, with one daughter and another on the way. She is an equities trader in Denver, but she grew up in rural Tennessee. Guns were a way of life. She has four, including a Winchester Special, which she bought with her own money at 16. In our interview, she used the word “responsible” nearly two dozen times.

“The whole gun culture has changed,” she said. “It used to be you learned how to be responsible. Now it’s, ‘Get a gun.’ They aren’t learning self-defense. They’re not taking gun safety classes. If you aren’t willing to go to safety class, you’re exactly the person who shouldn’t have a gun.”

Daniela Halliburton is a 42-year-old lesbian who works as a data analyst at Tulane University in New Orleans. She grew up in rural Louisiana. At 6, she was the proud owner of a BB gun. Her father gave her a “real gun” when she was 12 and taught her how to use it.

“He taught me how to aim, how to load and clean a gun, how to shoot better,” she said. “It was part of family life.”

After Katrina destroyed her home, she returned to salvage what was left of it. She carried a gun on her at all times. “Eight years later, I still think that was the right thing for me to do,” she said.

Susan Fowler is 54, a self-described “flaming left-wing liberal” and the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Lyon County, KS. She is a former police dispatcher and teaches psychology at a local college.

She, too, grew up with guns. She owns two handguns and a rifle and uses them on her farm. “I like taking out critters when I have to,” she said.

Fowler said most female gun owners she knows support universal background checks. This was true of virtually every woman I interviewed. Repeatedly, they also brought up domestic violence. A man with a restraining order against him, they said, should lose his gun.

It’s popular right now to say women own guns to feel a sense of power, but most of the women I interviewed scoffed at this notion.

“That’s a masculine take on guns and power,” Halliburton said. “We never talk about feeling any power. Women talk about defending against rapists and batterers, someone who’s going to invade the home and hurt women.”

Odom said: “Safety? Yes. Power? No. Power for me means I’m respected for my opinion. It means I’m heard.”

Fowler agreed. “I don’t make the connection between gun ownership and power. My power comes from my intellect, not the tools I own.”

Mindset matters, Mary said. “Thinking from a position of ‘I’ll show you’ or ‘I feel weak’ is not power,” she said. “Being in control of your emotions before you use your gun — that’s power.”

Fowler said that many express surprise when they learn she owns guns. At the most recent county fair, she struck up a conversation with the local NRA president, whose booth was near hers.

“I don’t think he likes me,” she said, “but he did tell the sheriff later that I’m the only Democrat he knows who owns a gun.”

She laughed.

“That is absolutely wrong,” she said. “We’re everywhere.”

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: bisongirl/Flickr

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Donald Trump Now Leads An Authoritarian Movement

Politico Magazine published an article Thursday that perfectly embodies the failures of tabloid-style political journalism to address the fundamental dangers facing the country: “145 Things Donald Trump Did in His First Year as the Most Consequential Former President Ever.”

“In ways both absurd and serious, the 45th president refused to let go of the spotlight or his party and redefined what it means to be a former leader of the free world,” the article sub-headline states, sitting above a colorful image containing a photo of a smiling Trump and images that have defined his post-presidency, including his second impeachment, golf clubs, and a vaccination needle.

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}