By Kenneth Braswell
Recently, one of my adult daughters showed me a video. Like times before, I thought it would be of her and a friend, her at an event, or something silly she just wanted to share with me. This video was none of those things–this was a video of her at a gun range. Invited by a friend, she took the opportunity to learn and understand how to use a firearm, or more specifically, a shotgun in this case. Ironically, it was the day after the Florida high school shooting, so I was particularly sensitive to the subject matter.
Seeing my daughter holding a shotgun, I had to shift my thoughts from the societal narrative taking place around guns and urge myself to understand how she felt about what she was doing. In that thought process, I realized how complicated the conversation of gun control really is and how quickly one’s views can change when the issue becomes personal.
On one hand, every American has the right to bear arms to protect self and country. On the other hand, we can’t regulate all of the intent and consequences associated with owning firearms, so we have to continue to find ways to anticipate who is susceptible to using guns with ill or misguided intent because guns can be deadly and extremely dangerous. Still, guns can act as a deterrent to predators and as objects of safety and comfort to some, given they can be a mechanism of protection.
As a citizen and former member of the military, I have many thoughts about the intended usage of guns and the reality of how guns have plagued our society in certain instances and among our most innocent citizens, namely schools and vulnerable communities. Yet, as a dad, the thought of my daughter having the courage to choose to have the training and availability of using a firearm to protect herself is not a notion I’m willing to totally reject. I take this stance even knowing what the research and statistics reveal about the deadly consequences that occur when women, weapons, and violence and abuse collide.
You see, at the same time we are grappling with the devastation of guns on children, we are also knee deep in discussions of sexual harassment, assault, and domestic abuse against women. As a man and fatherhood advocate, I continually raise the issue that these are not just realities facing women and children, but that men, too, are victims of abuse and gun violence.
As a father, I recognize that many of us as parents must navigate the conversation of protection—protecting our families and teaching our children appropriate ways to protect themselves. With my son, I talk about what it means to abuse women through control and violence, and I instill in him an understanding and quality of compassion and the honor of manhood. With my daughters, I talk about what abuse, control, and violence look like, and I talk about empowerment, self-determination, and the need to be mindful at all times of their safety. It occurred to me that as parents we should be having both of these conversations with our sons and our daughters.
However, today, thinking about my daughter and the image of her holding a shotgun, I am confronted with the complexity of this issue of guns: I’m troubled because I still see her as my baby and child, but I also have a desire for her to be safe and protected. The reality of guns is such that I can’t guarantee for my child what function they will serve–harm or protection. To be honest, I don’t know the “right” directive to give her. I have concerns, thoughts, and suggestions, but no directive. I’ve raised her to be compassionate, responsible, empowered, self-aware, capable, proud, and conscious. If I have done my job well, she will inherently make the right decision for herself.
In this case, she has chosen to be responsible and prepared–not to cause unnecessary harm, but to have the ability to have available to her another option of protection when I can’t be that for her. Did I cringed when I saw the video? Yes. Was I proud of my now grown up baby girl? Yes. Was I frightened for her? Yes. Was I somehow comforted? Yes. Do I believe she understands the seriousness of the matter? Yes.
Given the stark realities about violence and guns in our society, as a dad, other than praying that she never has to use that option, those are the best answers I can ask for.