I like to think I'm a fairly normal person. And I've always believed that normal people don't go around carrying a gun.
However, in my "former life" as a separated and then divorced person, I was advised to protect myself because of threats against me made by my former spouse.
So I bought and carried a .22-caliber pistol (semiautomatic, capable of firing eight rounds). And yes, I had a concealed handgun license issued by the sheriff of Jackson County. I took gun safety lessons and visited the firing range. My hands shook every time I held the gun and fired it at the target. The sheriff had told me that with this small-caliber weapon, I must fire every shot to stop someone from getting to me.
I hated carrying this gun in my purse I hated everything about it. I really didn't believe that I could have ever fired it at a person, especially the father of my children. I hoped that if I ever had to pull it out, someone looking down the barrel of it would stop. But the sheriff assured me that a "perpetrator" bolstered by drugs and alcohol can think they are superhuman and keep on coming even after I had fired a shot. Could I have done that? Luckily, I never had to find out. But I did carry the gun for several years.
I always wondered about what I would do if I ever was in a situation where someone was pointing a gun at someone else. Would I have the courage to even pull mine out?
I was especially uncomfortable in the bank or in any public place. You never know what might come your way. But I figured by the time I fished it out of my purse, took off the safety, put a round in the chamber and aimed, I'd probably be dead anyway.
I quit carrying when my ex-husband killed himself with one of his many guns. He had first aimed it at his wife. She managed to escape and he then turned the gun on himself. Did you know that one-third of all gun deaths are suicides?
During my marriage to him and after the divorce, I had asked his family for help, but they didn't believe me. In fact, he had convinced them that I was the nut case. I also reached out to counselors and mental health professionals, but they told me that there was nothing they could do, although they suspected he was a borderline manic-depressive who used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
I'll never know how many times, while he was in a depressed cycle, that he aimed a gun at my head while I slept or contemplated shooting all of us in our beds. I have to think that if my ex hadn't had guns, he might be alive today, might have sought professional help for his illness and would not have hurt his children and family with his actions.
Yes, guns really do kill people. I believe that if folks didn't have so many of them, this country would be a safer place to live. If I had it to do over again, I don't think that I would have gotten a gun. But when you are under stress and forced by circumstance, you do things that aren't what you think of as "normal."
Even so, I can't imagine most teachers carrying a pistol in the classroom or being able to use it with any effectiveness, when faced with a military-style assault weapon. More guns are not the answer.
It was not until I wrote this — almost 25 years after my experiences — that I realized my children and I were the victims of gun violence.
Please support the president and vice president and all those who have lost someone to gun violence. There are no easy answers to this dilemma, but surely we can come up with common-sense solutions.
Kathy Ashcraft is a retired magazine publisher and advertising executive and has lived in Medford for 30 years.