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My Trip to the Gun Store

By Carrie Tinsley of Carrie On Y’all

I can make this funny, I thought. Sure, I’m a little scared, but I’ll be okay. The nervous-mother-of-three in the gun store making sarcastic observations just has to be comical.

In early June — before the nightmare mass shooting in Orlando, before the many officer-involved shootings, when the promise of summer was exciting and innocent — I hitched a ride to the airport with my mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law. They stopped at a gun store along the route.

A sign outside assured patrons they could carry their weapons inside but kindly asked them to keep all guns holstered. Every single employee was wearing a gun. My over-TV’d imagination also assumed they were wearing ankle holsters, big scary knives, and probably a hand-grenade or two for good measure.

I wasn’t prepared for my body’s visceral reaction to seeing weapons all around me. Acid roiled in my stomach, and my pulse quickened in fear. Trying not to draw attention, I took sneaky selfies of my terrified face in front of huge racks of guns. I kept my smart mouth closed because no one at the gun store appreciates the humor of a snarky unarmed pacifist, right?

My in-laws knew I wasn’t comfortable there, and I certainly could’ve gone outside to our parked car at any point. Instead, I chose to stay inside to observe this unfamiliar culture, to attempt to understand others’ fascination with firearms. I know nothing about guns. I’m not a hunter, I live in a safe neighborhood, and I sure as hell don’t want my kids anywhere near them. However, one couple in the store had brought their two children, both under five years old. 

At this point, gun enthusiasts will pounce on my ignorance and give me all the propaganda. While the logical part of my brain understands their argument, I cannot separate logic from innate fear, from knowing what those guns do when placed in the wrong hands. Just being in the gun store, observing ordinary people casually carrying guns in public, scared me to death. All the “reassuring” gun enthusiasm in the world couldn’t talk me out of the fight-or-flight feeling.

My sister-in-law purchased a handgun in under an hour. Even this short time period caused me to worry. My overactive imagination considered how quickly and easily the next mass shooter could purchase any one of these weapons. I actually prayed that the next mass shooter, wherever he or she was, would reconsider, just drive on by a place like this and never go inside, never make the 6 o’clock news, never devastate innocent families.

With the purchase of her gun, the staff encouraged my sister-in-law to ring the large brass “freedom bell” next to the cash register to celebrate her Second Amendment right to bear arms. The cashier smiled and said if my sister-in-law were planning to use the gun, she’d better shoot to kill. And drag the trespassing body into her house to make sure it was legal.

That was my cue to exit.

This summer, Americans can’t turn on the news without facing heartbreak, anger, bigotry, racism, and violence. My trip to the gun store opened my eyes.

I will never be a gun enthusiast, but what’s scarier than the guns themselves is knowing that black people in America have every reason to be afraid if they’re stopped by police. What’s scarier than the guns themselves is that police officers who were doing their jobs to protect their communities were targeted by angry retaliators just because they were members of law enforcement. What’s scariest of all is the hate lurking under the surface of so many Americans.

The weapons themselves are innocuous pieces of metal, and each day Americans have the right to purchase them. Each day, I’m sure that good, honest people purchase guns. However, we must also acknowledge that evil people with evil ulterior motives (on both sides of the law) can just as easily procure firearms if they so desire.

And when we combine angry people full of hate…with guns? The results are deadly.

We Americans have to do better, to be better. I don’t want to lose hope in America, but we also can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that hate and violence will go away on their own. Though there isn’t an easy answer, I hope Americans will work together to heal.

To those who have lost loved ones this summer: your losses are senseless and unfair. You should be barbecuing with your dad, throwing a ball in the yard with your uncle, or remembering the good ole days with your brother or sister. You shouldn’t have to visit their graves.


About the Author

Three years ago, Carrie Tinsley “retired” from teaching high school English so she could stay home with her kids, heat chicken nuggets, occasionally fold laundry, and become the world’s worst housekeeper. Though she can’t be trusted with paint or scissors, Carrie gets her three kids where they need to be on most days. She loves audio books, alcohol, and writing sometimes-sweet/sometimes-sassy posts on parenting, teaching, and other fun stuff at Carrie On Y’all. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.