by Leyla Myers
SAS Life Member
This past Mother's Day, I was alone most of the weekend with my two boys, 2 months old and almost 3 years old. Oh, what a fun weekend that was! If you have kids, you know there is a bit of sarcasm in my saying this. But I love them dearly, and every time I look at them, I think of two mothers. One is my mother, and the other is an unknown person that I saw years ago at a random Northern Virginia restaurant. These are two opposite images of two mothers - one helpless in the face of imminent danger; another confident in her ability to protect the child at any time, in any place. I want to be the image of that second mother - to be the first person to defend myself and my children. That is something my mother would never be able to do.
You see, I was born and raised in the greatest Soviet Union. When it's reign was over, my family remained living in what is now an independent Azerbaijan Republic. Most aspects of our lives continued to be the same - shortage of food, grey life style, and a trust that the government knows best what is best for us and one more - that the government and the police will always protect us. My parents were average people, and never owned a gun. They did not have a ‘good cause’ to own one. Thus, gun ownership as a right or an aspect of daily life did not exist in my mind, my life, my vocabulary. Not ever. No one I knew personally owed a gun. No one I knew ever mentioned a desire to have a gun. Yet I can think of at least three specific moments in my life back home when my safety and even my life was in imminent danger, and all of them happened near or within the walls of my home. Neither of my parents would have been able to defend me nor would I have been able to defend myself. I once asked a police officer if I should carry a folded knife to protect myself from a possible assault and he told me not to even consider that because even if someone attacked me, if I used the knife I would be prosecuted, and there would be no excuse for self-defense.
With the collapse of USSR came civil unrest and ethnic wars. My family was in the midst of one such war. One night, when I was 13, there were men walking from door to door looking for people like my father who had the misfortune to be born with the 'wrong ethnicity'. Now I know that this is called ethnic cleansing. By luck, my father had left the country a week before. If he was home that night, there would have been no chance of our survival. Since he was gone, my mother and grandmother stood at the door, and used their bodies as a shield between the men and my brother and I. They plead with the men to spare our lives. The only thing my mother could use was her words and her body to protect us. The men had the weapons, the power and the right to decide what to do. We were lucky that night. Many other families were not so lucky.
I came to U.S. in 2011 as an adult, alone. I had to learn basic things about life in America - how to buy groceries, choose an apartment, and decide where to go for shopping and eating. I did not ask my friends or acquaintances, "Do you have a gun?" or, "what is your view on gun ownership?" Then, two years after coming to U.S. and living in Virginia, I met my husband, the gun owner. But even after months of talking to him and others, I was not sure if gun ownership, or even more doubtful, that gun carrying is for me. I kept finding excuses of why I should not carry. I would tell myself and others that I don't know why I should trouble myself with this liability. My husband is American-born and raised, so he gets to enjoy this right, not me. That was my thought and my excuse. I was not a mother then, not even thinking about starting a family. Then, one evening in Northern Virginia I saw the mother with a child in her hands and a gun in a holster enjoying a meal with friends at a restaurant. It was like pieces of a puzzle finally falling in all the right places. Suddenly all the pro-carry arguments made sense and there was no turning back. No propaganda genius would ever change my mind, my thoughts on gun ownership. I still don't know who that woman was, but it is every woman who carries a firearm in Virginia whom I am thankful to.
So, today I am proud to be a U.S. citizen, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a gun owner who is ready to defend the lives of my dearest sons. With all due respect to my mother, I am not my mother's defenseless image.