An open (respectful) address to those who can’t understand why a woman like me would have an NRA membership. Here are a few things I wish you could know. Would you give me a moment of your time?

I’m not a gun-owner or a member of the NRA because I love guns.

I’m an NRA member because I respect guns and the damage they can cause. When I became a gun owner I vowed to take that seriously and educate myself on the laws and proper uses. The NRA provides the resources to educate oneself about the laws from state to state, training tailored for women and various safety and instructional programs.

I don’t think everyone should be armed.

I just think everyone has the right to bear arms.

I became a gun owner because of my children.

I was raised with a healthy fear of guns. I had a deep disdain for the Second Amendment.  I swore I would never allow one in my home. My mind changed when I became a mother. For a short while, my husband had to move to a different state ahead of us to start a new job. I was left in a high crime area that was suffering a spate of violent home invasions. I had two small children. Despite my reservations about guns I took a safety/instructional class and bought a weapon. I stored it properly and that meant it wasn’t necessarily within easy reach, but just the knowledge that I had some means of defending my family in case of an emergency gave me so much peace. I still think it was the right thing to do.

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The NRA protects civil rights.

For black Americans, civil rights is an especially prevalent and sensitive issue. We’ve had to fight hard for them and we’ve lost many in the battle, alongside non-black Americans who stood with us. At its inception, the NRA was heavily involved in protecting the rights of black Americans to arm themselves against racial violence perpetrated by the KKK. I still see them as protecting our rights to be equally protected.

It is because of my deep respect for gun safety and proper use that I joined the NRA.

The first time I fired a gun in my instructional class I learned two things:

  1. As cliche as it sounds, a gun is just a tool. I suppose I’d always attached a bit of superstition to guns. As if they contained evil right there in the chamber. To actually use one took much of the mystique out of it all.
  2. Because these tools are quite powerful tools and I am a mother, they should be treated with great care and responsibility. The NRA educates gun owners about safety, storage, and the laws in each state. I wanted to know everything I could about those things.

Most NRA members are just regular people like me.

I’m not a “gun nut” or some yahoo with a thirst for blood. I don’t even know anyone like that, NRA member or not. The media storm surrounding this issue has boiled down all of the nuances of our social interactions to frustratingly simplistic notions of each other. “If you are a member of the NRA you’re evil. If you’re not, you’re good.” The NRA has over 5 million members. Chances are you know someone with a membership. Most of us have pretty average lives. We work with you, socialize with you, laugh and cry with you. We’re related to you. There’s no monthly NRA meeting where we all get together and talk about giving guns to the mentally ill because HEY WE JUST LOVE GUNS SO MUCH. It isn’t like that at all.

An NRA membership doesn’t come with a cold, black heart.

Going back to my point – I’m just like you. I’m also a mother. Many mothers belong to the NRA. We all felt the same wave of grief and anger you did upon learning about the horrific shooting in Parkland. We all thought of our own children; we all thought of the mothers grieving their babies. Our first thought was not to defend the weapon that killed them, and still is not. We wish – like all of you – that the Parkland murderer had not been able to get a gun and then allowed to slaughter his schoolmates. We also would like to understand how that happened and work to prevent it from ever happening again. I understand that some of may you passionately believe that the only logical way to do that is to ban all guns or most guns or “high-powered” guns. I understand your reasoning behind that. I’m willing to listen. But I humbly beg you to at least consider that just because I don’t agree with your reasoning on the issue does not in any way, shape or form mean I’m just shrugging my shoulders and saying “Well, it’s just how it is!” I simply have other ideas about how we protect ourselves from deranged people like the Parkland shooter. Regardless of our differences, our ideas are all focused on the same goal – protecting our children. We just have different views on the best way to do that. And that makes neither you nor I “evil”.

I am not your enemy, nor are you mine.

We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus finished telling the story of a Samaritan who stopped to help a dying stranger after two others had passed him by, He asked:

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:36-37

We are neighbors, although we don’t all live next door to each other. Our passion should never be at the expense of compassion. Our rage should never be at the expense of our mercy. Our grief should never be at the expense of our neighbors. I don’t intend to persuade you to join the NRA or get a gun. I’m just saying – get out and talk to your neighbor. Instead of arguing on a Facebook thread, engage someone in a real-life discussion. Try listening without talking (this is advice for all of us). Try looking at those you think you could never like as a neighbor.

The Good Samaritan was culturally prohibited from helping the man on the side of the road. Yet he brushed aside what his culture told him he was supposed to do in order to be a neighbor to a perfect stranger.

Let us all go and do likewise.