I met Regis Giles at CPAC. She’s friendly, a bit soft-spoken – the exact opposite of what the anti-gun lobby would want you to think that gun owners are. But Regis is a gun owner. Not only that, she’s the founder of “Girls Just Wanna Have Guns.” I spoke with her at length about what 2nd Amendment rights mean to young women like us. This is what I learned.
The very reasons you’d never expect Regis to know how to use a firearm – she’s a woman, she’s young, she’s polite and quiet and the exact opposite of violent – are the very reasons it is so necessary for her to know self-defense. She told me, “the statistics are out there. Women are the victims.” Regis is, sadly, correct. It is estimated that one in every three women will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. For young women, the risk is even higher. Eighty percent of rape victims are under the age of thirty at the time they are attacked. No woman who has been through sexual assault should bear any of the blame for what has happened to her. But through an expanded awareness of self-defense, women can learn to protect themselves from ever becoming victims.
No one knows this better than Regis. Though she herself has never had to use her self-defense training (she tells me, “thank God”), Regis made it clear to me that she would not want to leave her safety up to the police: “You don’t want to wait minutes when seconds count,” she said in reference to the Virginia Tech shootings. Her message about the importance of self-defense is not necessarily wedded to the use of firearms. Regis is trained in Brazilian jiu jitsu.
All of that is very impressive, but I had to ask – what about the rest of us? Martial arts are not going to happen for me, since I lack the time to invest in mastering it and, oh, I’m viciously uncoordinated. I also live in a university-owned apartment building. It’s rowdy and wonderful. But not a great place to have a gun. (The school knows this, and as a private institution, suspends the 2nd Amendment rights of students in campus housing.) Even after graduation, I doubt I’ll make the decision to own a gun. I believe wholeheartedly that I should have the right to gun ownership, but I also believe that I have the right to make the safest choice for myself. (An interesting experiment in forced gun ownership took place not far from my hometown, in Kennesaw, Georgia. The local government required each head of household to own a firearm and ammunition. Though I don’t think it’s right, it sure was successful: The town’s crime rate took a nosedive when the law was enacted and remained low, even though its population septupled during the time the law was in place.) Anyway, how awful of me to sit with the mastermind of Girls Just Wanna Have Guns…and imply that I’m a girl who doesn’t quite want to have a gun! To my question, Regis had several answers, from the basics (never walk anywhere alone at night) to the worst-case scenario (if an armed gunman runs in, you can organize with others and do a “group rush”). It dawned on me that there is no one “right” way to do self-defense.
The only wrong way to learn self-defense is to never learn it at all. This is true for both genders. According to the Department of Justice, men are nearly 10% more likely than women to be victims of violent crime. Self-defense is a women’s issue. Self-defense is also a men’s issue.
Of everything I learned from Regis, this stayed with me: “Guns are the great equalizer.” This statement is a little scary at first, because guns equalize us only at the most basic level, in terms of brute force. As a society, shouldn’t we have moved beyond that? Yes, we should have. And we have progressed beyond that, for the most part. But you are only as safe as the most dangerous person around you. When that person is violent – Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, and Columbine come to mind – a civilian who reacts quickly and forcefully can save lives. I believe that American civilians can be heroes in times of crisis, and I believe we should give them that chance by protecting their 2nd Amendment rights and encouraging every family, every individual, every household to have a practical self-defense strategy.