Every day when I drive to base from dropping off my children from school, I see men and women with guns guarding the gate. (I’m thankful for them).
When I leave the commissary, I see scores of Army troops with rifles training near their barracks. (I’m thankful them, too).
I go to Wal-Mart to buy my children their favorite toys for Christmas and pass by the glass counter filled with guns and rifles; toys and guns just aisles from each other, I barely notice anymore. I live in Texas – West Texas, where I hear guns and shotguns being fired from behind my home during dove and deer hunting season. In a single day, I’m surrounded by dozens of guns; I’m un-phased. It’s just a part of my life.
A few months ago, some random man was shooting at bottles on a fence behind our home (unsecured base housing). Belligerently and carelessly, he fired dozens of rounds in the air. Three bullets whizzed over mine and my neighbors head, cutting through tree branches above, while were standing in front of our homes.
Our children were only several feet from us. One bullet went through my neighbor’s house, the wall outside their bathroom where she just finished bathing her children. Her three year-old picked up the bullet from the bathroom floor and brought it mommy.
I personally thought it was someone after my husband for punishment or payback from a disciplinary action at work. I hid in my stairwell with my children until the police told us it was a civilian, a prior felon having a good time shooting bottles behind our home. He shouldn’t have had a gun. We were outraged and scared, of course. But, the outrage and fear didn’t last and we chalked it up to bad people doing bad things.
However, after the massacre of innocents in Newtown, Conn. something changed in me. I realized that I have been numb to guns and their abundance in numbers. I picked up my kindergartner and preschooler from school with suspicious eyes wondering how secure my children really were. This could never happen again, right?
I’m not sure anymore. I’ve become so numb to the presence of guns until now; something has stirred inside me. Guns are everywhere; in the open and hidden from view. From my neighbors to the guard gate base, from Christmas shopping to hunting season, from pawn shops to the vehicle parked next to me, they are everywhere. I’m in a heightened state of awareness because if just one of these guns fall into the wrong hands, even if they were acquired legally, it could change the course my life forever.
I no longer feel safe. It’s not about protecting myself, either. I’m not going to carry a gun with a kindergartner and preschooler in tow. I’m sure people do, but it’s not something would be comfortable with.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of the Second Amendment. However, I believe that gun ownership is a responsibility that most take seriously. Responsible gun owners shouldn’t be penalized for following the law. But as I stood in line to see Santa Claus with my children this weekend inside a crowded mall, I couldn’t help but think this place was a target for a madman with a gun. I felt helpless, then extremely sad for knowing that it could happen. It happened recently in crowded mall in Oregon, in the movie theaters in Colorado, in a coffee shop in Washington. All places of business I frequent with my children. I didn’t feel safe. I reached down and tightened my grip on their little hands.
Is this our new reality? Where crowded places and classrooms are targets for the armed unstable minded? I feel helpless. My world has changed since Friday. I’m no longer numb to the guns that surround me. I’m now on edge because of them, acutely aware of how my life can change in an instant — as fast as you can pull a trigger.
Stacy Allsbrook-Huisman is a freelance writer and consultant with a passion for military spouses and families. Being married to the Air Force for almost decade has given her the inside perspective into the life and struggles of the military family. Huisman currently writes for Goodfellow Monitor at Goodfellow Air Force Base and local papers. She works full time raising her two preschoolers and managing her military life.