I’ve been someone who’s shunned all things firearms. The groundswell of calls for greater gun control caught me by surprise. But, it made more sense when I learned about the Parkland student activists’ backgrounds. My hat’s off to the teachers who helped them prepare for their moment in the national spotlight as they described to Ellen. These and other events have moved me to have a more open mind about the debate surrounding guns.

For some, guns are common household items along with flashlights and flash drives.

A friend who, at the time, worked for Homeland Security first encouraged me to think differently about guns. She advocates for all, especially women, to have at least one non-threatening exposure to guns, in part, as a way to confront fear. With her encouragement, I made my first visit to a shooting range. Several things about the experience stood out: Guns are loud. Shooting takes arm strength (think Angela Basset and Michelle Obama). And, setting up to shoot reminds me of ordering a meal in a restaurant. There are lots of decisions to make about your ability and willingness to shoot, what type of gun to shoot and more. I’ve now visited several a shooting range on each coast, another in Finland, and homemade ones in the mid-West. I’ve read about and talked to others about guns. As a result, I think differently.

I’ve learned it’s easier to buy an AR-15 than it is to get birth control, qualify for affordable health care,  get your tax returns, and do many other things. Maybe that’s why so many more Americans own guns than citizens of other countries. I’ve also read that the number of gun owners fluctuates. Knowing these kinds of things give me pause.

Why do people purchase guns?

I now know that I prefer not to shoot or be around guns. Yet I realize, for some, guns are common household items along with flashlights, flash drives, staplers, and newspapers. I’ve wondered why. I’ve since learned that some people just enjoy shooting. Sure you can rent firearms at shooting ranges. But, there are economic and other advantages to having your own gun and, if you can manage it, your own area for target practice. I can see how the same is true with other sporting equipment. And, some people live in areas where they need guns and other resources for safety, mainly from wildlife. Still, others collect guns. Having seen fancy firearms in museums, I can appreciate the artful design of some weapons.

That stated, many cite protection from people with ill intentions or expressions of personal freedom as reasons for owning a gun. The prior moves me to wonder if, for some, gun ownership is more a reaction than a choice.

What can we do?

I’ve shaken my head at products offering fashionable guns and gun carriers for women. I’ve chuckled at a comment in the blockbuster Blank Panther referring to guns as “primitive.” It made me wonder what technology we will create that provides protection or recreation without consequences to which mass gun ownership is now leading.

But what can we Ones who’ve bucked family trends in achieving success and our allies do? First and foremost, we can all have an informed opinion. I hope for a day when all who consider owning a gun are able to make a real choice as opposed to a reaction when deciding whether to acquire one. I not only support efforts to increase responsible gun ownership, but I also support efforts to make society safer. Let’s find ways to decrease the wage gap, manage mental illness, and extend equality to all as specified in our American roots.

Until then, I’m no longer intimidated by guns–thanks to my buddy who was at Homeland Security–and I know about gun safety. Additionally, I support universal background checks. I vote. And, I meditate.