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On Her Own: Who Do You Protect, and Why?

Editor's Note: This On Her Own column from CONCEALMENT 35 is a good companion to Fool's Rush In: The Calculus of Armed Interdiction

Considering Your Interdiction Circle

We carry guns because we expect that at some point we may need to use them. We don’t want to be caught unprepared when a bad guy is doing bad things to … whom, exactly?

Using lethal force against another human being is a serious undertaking. Using guns defensively requires us to buy and learn how to use one, to carry it with us even though it may be inconvenient or uncomfortable, and to understand the legal consequences that may result.

The costs — monetary and otherwise — can be quite high. Even a justified shooting can still result in getting arrested, needing to hire a lawyer, and having your name and face in the local news as “that person who shot someone.” This isn’t a positive for you or your family; you might beat the charge, but you can’t beat the ride.

It’s also possible to get it all wrong; perhaps your intervention was unsuccessful, or you injured or killed an innocent bystander or child. When that happens, you may carry an additional burden of guilt or shame on top of everything else.

If you carry a gun, you should be thinking about whom you’re willing to defend with it. Decide who in your life is deserving of your precious time and effort, your mental and emotional health, and even your reputation and freedom.


The concept of self-defense identifies the obvious reason to carry a gun: to protect yourself. This requires a belief that you’re worth every effort, every harm you may do to another person, so that you survive when they try to hurt you. Not everybody is able to settle in that mental place, and they may have other reasons to include guns as part of their daily lives.


Those other reasons often include spouses and children. Some will bear the burden for other family members or perhaps even close friends. We identify with these people as part of ourselves, integral parts of our worlds, and therefore we want to protect them the same or more than ourselves. You see it in the “mama bear” imagery, but they aren’t the only ones who are willing to do anything to protect their loved ones. For them, it’s about doing whatever it takes, at whatever cost, for the ones closest to them to be safe. How far does that circle extend, though?


In a world where we fear mass shooters and other forms of random violence, we might think about using our guns as a way to stop bad guys from killing indiscriminately — a bit of wanting to be a hero, perhaps, but at heart it’s about saving lives from the worst of the worst. We might not, but should, think about the collateral damage if a round misses its intended target, or the potential of being mistaken for the attacker and not the savior. It can be a lot to take on, for the benefit of people who are complete strangers and with high risk to ourselves.


Some strangers are different, though. They aren’t members of a faceless crowd. They’re the types of people we feel a specific urge to protect, like children or women or those who appear unable to defend themselves in one way or another. While we might be OK with letting ordinary strangers fend for themselves, that might be a harder sell when it comes to someone who seems more clearly a victim. We might be thinking about whether we could live with ourselves if we witnessed these innocents being harmed and did nothing. For these people, we need to balance that moral imperative with what we or our families might suffer if we get involved.


There are no universally right or wrong answers here.

You might decide that all life is so precious that it turns out you shouldn’t carry a gun at all and risk carrying the weight of another’s life on you no matter what they might have done. Or you might be determined to fight for your own life no matter what that fight might require.

You might value your family of choice, who might not be your blood family, enough to pay the cost of carrying a gun. You might realize that you couldn’t forgive yourself if you allowed an innocent child to die even if you had never seen them before — even if it means your family loses their own protector and provider.

Wherever you land, figure it out before you’re faced with an attacker and victim. This is how you’ll ensure that you’re paying the costs of using your gun only when the result is truly worth it to you.


Annette Evans is the founder of “On Her Own,” a space for women to explore and learn how to navigate the world solo. She started in the gun world as a competitive shooter and now pursues intense training in the practical application of firearms in defensive use and related soft and hard skills. Annette is an NRA- and Rangemaster-certified firearms instructor; a multiple-time Shivworks alumni and assistant instructor to Cecil Burch; a Brazilian jiujitsu blue belt; the author of The Dry Fire Primer; and a commercial attorney in her spare time. Her cats are named Tuna and Goose. 

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