Does Trump's election, and the uprising of hatred that has followed, have you considering purchasing a gun to protect yourself? As someone who has been both a feminist and a gun owner her entire adult life, I'm here to offer some friendly advice. Please know that I am not an expert, and that I can only begin to scratch the surface of what you will need to know in order to be a responsible gun owner. I can, however, give you an overview of what to expect in regards to carrying a handgun.
The first thing I will tell you is that this is not a simple purchase, this is a commitment. In order to do this safely, legally, and correctly, you will need to acquire a whole new body of knowledge and skill set regarding firearms and shooting. You will need to make time to practice shooting on a regular basis from now on.
I cannot stress this enough: Education regarding, and proficiency with, a firearm are what ensure that, should you ever need to use your gun to defend yourself, you will hit only your intended target and nothing else.
Before you go to purchase a firearm, I recommend you take some shooting lessons. Contact your local gun shop/range or law enforcement office. If they don't have an instructor on staff, they can refer you to one. Once you have learned how to shoot, go practice on your own by either borrowing guns from friends, or renting from your local range. You need to get your hands on as many firearms as you can in order to determine what fits you best. Read online reviews, watch YouTube videos, and get recommendations from sources you trust before making a decision on what to purchase. You cannot return a firearm once it is purchased, Federal Law prohibits it. You can, however, trade it in, but much like with a car, you will take a loss on the price. So before you buy a gun, be sure you are making an informed decision.
Once you are comfortable operating a firearm and feel you are proficient enough to own one, you will need to contact your local sheriff's department to obtain a purchase permit. Note: This is not the same thing as a concealed carry permit. A purchase permit only allows you to purchase a handgun. Increasingly, it is common to have to make an appointment with your sheriff's department to fill out the application for a purchase permit. In my case, I was fingerprinted, photographed, and had to submit to a background check. It took a few weeks for the permit to come back. Only after the permit came back could I then purchase a handgun, legally, from a dealer or private citizen.
When buying a handgun, know that you will also need the following equipment:
A holster and/or sleeve to keep your gun secured and clean while carrying it.
This will ensure it does not get snagged on anything in your pocket/purse and go off accidentally. This also keeps dirt and lint out of the barrel. If you attempt to fire a gun with a clogged barrel, the results can be catastrophic. I have one of each. I use the sleeve for carrying in my purse (off-body carry) or in the pocket of my cargo pants (on-body carry), and I have an inside the waistband holster for those times where, dependent upon what I'm wearing and where I'm going, it makes more sense to have the gun inside my waistband. Again, this is an area where you will need to try out a few different options to find what works best for you.
Proper ammunition for your gun.
I have rounded tip ammo for target practice, and hollow points (which are more expensive) that I use when carrying for self-defense. Note that not all ammo is created equal. Cheaper ammo or target loads sometimes shoot "dirtier," which will require more frequent cleaning. Your local gun shop employee and your owner's manual are great resources for finding the right ammo for your gun.
A safe in which to store your gun.
Federal Law requires every gun come with a lock that either goes through the trigger guard or through the action when sold, whether new or used. I also recommend a safe to store it in when you are not carrying the gun, or have visitors with children over. If you have children yourself, then you are required by Federal Law to store your guns in a manner that is not accessible to them. Read: Gun Safe!
Tools and solvents to clean and lubricate your gun.
Before you ever shoot your gun, you will need to know how to take it apart to clean and oil it. You will need to "field strip" and clean and oil your gun after each practice session, and at least once every quarter, but really, if you carry a gun, you should be practicing at the very least once a month, and therefore cleaning it once a month. Once yearly, you will need to completely disassemble, thoroughly clean your gun, and reassemble it. If you are not comfortable with this task, seek the services of a qualified gunsmith. Again, see what your owner's manual or gun shop recommend.
Eye and ear protection for use while practicing.
You will need these while taking shooting lessons, and many instructors/ranges have safety glasses and ear muffs you can rent. I personally have a set of ear plugs, and a set of ear muffs I wear over them, and since my prescription eyeglasses have polycarbonate lenses, those serve as my "eyes."
Extra magazines, and a dedicated range bag, are highly recommended, but not required.
I have two magazines for my pistol, both of which are the extended magazine that hold one additional round, and more importantly, extends the grip to give my pinky a spot to rest, which is important for comfort, stability and accuracy. Currently my "range bag" is a canvas tote made by The Tote Project. There are, however, bags designed to carry your gun, ammo, magazines, etc. to and from the range.
The next step will be to once again contact your local sheriff's office, this time about the proper steps to obtaining a concealed carry permit. A gun does you no good unless it is readily accessible, and unless you plan to open carry, you will need to go through the proper channels to legally be able to carry your gun in a purse, pocket, backpack, etc. Note: A concealed carry class is not the place to learn to shoot. You will be required to show proficiency with a handgun.
I live in North Carolina, and my class was all day, from 8 AM to 5 PM. We shot first, which took about an hour, and the rest of the day was dedicated to learning all the laws regarding when and where we are allowed to carry, and under what circumstances we can use lethal force to defend ourselves or someone else. After that, I had to make an appointment with the county sheriff's office to apply for my CCW. Much like with the purchase permit, I had to show ID, submit to a criminal background check, certify that I had never been declared mentally unstable, and be fingerprinted. My fingerprints are now and forever "in the system," so if I ever I were to commit a crime, in any state, NC would be notified immediately, and I would lose my concealed carry permit. It took from the end of August, when I took my class, to the middle of October for my permit to come back. I have to carry it and my ID with me at all times, and if ever I am approached by police, I must immediately disclose that I have a CCW and let them know whether or not I have it on me at the moment.
So to give you an idea of what I have invested in all of this:
Range time for practice, including gun rental, targets, and ammo: $200 over the course of three months.
Ear muffs and ear plugs: $45
Pistol Purchase Permit: $5
Gun, case, extra magazine, cleaning kit: $715
Holster and sleeve: $55
Concealed Carry Class: $100
Concealed Carry Permit: $90 initial fee, $75 every five years to renew it.
Gun Safe: The one I have will hold several long guns as well, so you definitely can find one for less than the $500 I paid for mine if all you need is space for a single handgun.
I hope this helps, and again, keep in mind this is not a complete guide to shooting, but this should get you pointed in the right direction.
Top photo: Vintage
More from BUST
Jamie Watkins is a current Massage Therapist, aspiring Environmental Scientist, and fledgling Blogger. She lives in North Carolina with her husband Josh, and their pack of rescued dogs. Jamie believes in leading by example, and hopes to use her newly minted blog to inspire others to volunteer, grow food not lawns, ride a bike, and love each other just a little more. You can read her blog at https://jamieariail.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Twitter @JamieAriail.