L. Neil Smith's
Number 261, February 29, 2004

Leaping Lizards!

How One Man Changed My World
by Tracy Schrader

Exclusive to TLE

How does a good little Catholic girl, sheltered all her life, raised to believe in the tooth fairy, and that government is really here to help us, go to raging libertarian, gun owner, and anti-government witch? (Literally. Raised Catholic, now Wiccan)

"...and we will always have at least a couple of guns and/or blades in the house". Seven years ago, that statement made me question almost everything I believed in, including my sanity, for falling in love with this strange older man. I knew he was a military brat, and had served and protected in many ways, but now he was standing here telling me that not only were guns his hobby, but that we may actually need them to defend ourselves and this country that we loved from the greedy clutches of tyranny and oppression? In the USA? But they are sworn to protect and defend us! They would never... And I was actually moving this grizzly bear sized nutcase into MY apartment, MY heart, and MY life?!

I was not raised in the gun culture. Yes, there was a pistol tucked away safely in a closet while I lived at home, but I never knew about it until my father (who had been a police officer several years before I came along) died in 1990. I was, like most children at the time, taught proper code of conduct in society, family values, and the importance of strong faith that God and government were always there looking out for my best interests. There was no place in any of that for those who "packed heat". That was for law enforcement to worry about, not me. After all, gun owners had to be criminals. Why else would anyone bother? Look at Waco and Ruby Ridge... child molesters and tax evaders... *tsk* They all got what they deserved, right? WRONG!!

I found myself opening up to the old saying "You can't believe everything you hear". Not that I didn't trust this man standing in front of me when he told me the full versions of the true stories behind David Koresh and Randy Weaver ("But, Honey, the media said..."), but what he told me was way outside the realm of my teachings, and I'd always been taught to be leery of those that held different beliefs or saw things differently (OMG his mind is open... RUN!) I went to the library for the facts to form my own conclusion. Of all the information I found, the biggest impact on my way of thinking was a video called Waco: The Rules of Engagement [ DVD, VHS] (1997), a behind the scenes look at all that the media did not say at the time. My eyes were finally opened, and the frickin' ol' man was right about the direction this world was taking. Fine. I still wasn't about to learn how to actually use a firearm. He's the man (as he still reminds me to this day)...If something happens, let him protect me.

I started going with him to pistol ranges. Never could understand the excitement of blowing massive holes into a little piece of paper, but I decided it was one of his quirks that I would just have to learn to deal with. I watched for a couple months worth of Sundays, as he blasted away at the paper, cussing in great length (and a few different languages) after each session. He called this fun? Satisfying? His "groupings", he felt, needed work. I'm thinking, "The fact that he not only hit the paper each time, but each shot landed in those circles was surely enough to say that he could shoot what he aimed at, right? Is it really necessary to practice like this and beat himself up over the results"? Apparently, he knew what I was thinking, because the first thing I heard at our next range trip was him asking to rent a Ruger M.K. II... a possibility we (cough more like he) had discussed briefly for my "starter gun".

After a fair amount of coaxing, and a solemn promise (though he had to bite his lip to keep a straight face) that my hands would absolutely not fall off if I touched a firearm, I decided to cave in. "Okay, Bear. One shot...just one. Then you'll see that all this is a horrible mistake, that I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn if I was standing a foot in front of it, and that a weapon should never be placed in these hands again. Furthermore, you're putting me in a position where I can be laughed at by a room full of people for not knowing what the hell I'm doing!" Oh yeah, this was much more than your typical anti-gun speech. I am a disabled woman with mild Cerebral Palsy; one side of my body doesn't work the way it should. Not only would I be learning how to shoot, but finding ways to adapt to it. My grip would not be typical, neither would my stance...and making a fool out of myself in public, in front of a BUNCH of seasoned firearms owners, was just not my idea of fun. Something about flying backwards and hitting the floor didn't seem practical, and I'd been watching long enough to see recoil at it's finest (not knowing that a .22 has about the least "kick" to it).

The Bear braced me for my first shot, as I was positive the gun would go slipping to the floor. "BULLSEYE!", he screamed. I still swear to this day that it was either beginner's luck, or that he had steadied my aim (though he denies it). I saw that it wasn't that bad ("OMG Honey! Can I do that again? PLEASE?!"), and surprisingly, not that hard to adapt to. I fired four magazines that day, literally peppering the entire target before I was through, but I was doing it. This was a huge deal for a 24 year old woman convinced by family all her life that she'd never handle so much as a glass Christmas tree ornament without breaking it, let alone be able to handle a tool that may one day save her life. Most of my fear of guns and those who use them instantly dissipated. I could, for the first time in my life, honestly say that I was fully capable of defending myself.

The man at the counter remarked as we were leaving that he certainly would never want to be caught in my sights, and to keep at it because I had already accomplished more on my first active range visit than most do on theirs. Within a month, I had purchased my very own M.K. II (and later, a .40 and .22 rifle). Thanks to much guidance from Bear, the folks at the at the range, and even a whole lot of people in a gun interest chatroom on the 'net (the rifle was a whole new set of challenges), I had people observing me at the ranges and commenting on my skill... thinking I had actually been at it for years!

Since then, I have devoted much of my time studying both government and religous history to try to understand — now that I have true understanding of myself — how we as a Nation got where we are... more importantly, why we're headed in the direction we are going, as well as where I stand in all this mess. All I know for sure is that I'm a proud, pistol packin' witch with an open mind who can see issues from all sides, and that this handbasket is awful pretty regardless where we're headed. And what about the frickin' ol' man-Bear? Did we stick together? Did things work out?

I saw in a TLE post recently where a man, a Mr. Ronald Beatty, said that he didn't believe one person could change the world. Maybe in the large scope of things, he's right... though one man has changed mine, simply by encouraging me to fully be who I am. Opening our minds and hearts beyond what we perceive as our boundaries is sometimes the most crucial key to personal freedom. Many thanks and much love, Bear, for being the one to help me see that, for standing by me through the transition, and most importantly... for loving who I turned out to be.

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