My Month With a Gun: Week One


UPDATE: See Statement of Ms. Magazine in Response to Alleged Pro-Gun Bullying

My hands are shaking; my adrenaline is surging.

No, it’s not from the latte I just inhaled or because this is the first time in two years I’ve been in a Starbucks since declaring a boycott on its open-carry gun policy.

What’s got me jittery this morning is the 9mm Glock that’s holstered on my hip. Me, lead gun policy protester at the 2010 Starbuck’s shareholder meeting. Me, a board member of the Brady Campaign. Me, the author of a book about the impact of gun violence, Beyond the Bullet.

Yes, I bought a handgun and will carry it everywhere I go over the next 30 days. I have four rules: Carry it with me at all times, follow the laws of my state, only do what is minimally required for permits, licensing, purchasing and carrying, and finally be prepared to use it for protecting myself at home or in public.

Why? Following the Newtown massacre in December, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, told the country, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  I wondered what would it be like to be that good guy with a gun? What would it be like to get that gun, live with that gun, be out and about with that gun. Finally, what happens when you don’t want that gun any more?

I decided to find out.

Getting the permit to carry a concealed weapon was simple. I filled out a form, had my fingerprints taken for a background check and paid $56.50. No training required. It took far longer to get my dog a license.

I started my 30-day gun trial with a little window-shopping. I visited a gun show and two gun dealers. I ended up buying a Glock 9mm handgun from Tony, a gun dealer four miles from my house. I settled on this model because it was a smallish gun and because Tony recommended it for my stated purposes of protecting myself and my home.

It was obvious from the way I handled the gun that I knew nothing about firearms. Tony sold it to me anyway. The whole thing took 7 minutes. As a gratified consumer, I thought, “Well, that was easy.” Then the terrifying reality hit me, “Holy hell, that was EASY.”  Too easy. I still knew nothing about firearms.

Tony told me a Glock doesn’t have an external safety feature, so when I got home and opened the box and saw the magazine in the gun I freaked. I was too scared to try and eject it as thoughts flooded my mind of me accidentally shooting the gun and a bullet hitting my son in the house or rupturing the gas tank of my car, followed by an earth-shaking explosion. This was the first time my hands shook from the adrenaline surge and the first time I questioned the wisdom of this 30-day experiment.

I needed help. I drove to where a police officer had pulled over another driver. Now, writing this, I realize that rolling up on an on-duty cop with a handgun in tow might not have been fully thought through.

I told him I just bought a gun, had no clue how to use it. I asked him to make sure there were no bullets in the magazine or chamber. He took the magazine out and cleared the chamber. He assured me it was empty and showed me how to look. Then he told me how great the gun was and how he had one just like it.

The cop thought I was an idiot and suggested I take a class. But up to that point I’d done nothing wrong, nothing illegal.

So here I sit at Starbucks, and the irony couldn’t be thicker. On March 12, 2010, I was surrounded by big hairy men with guns on their hips, yelling at me as I led a protest against Starbuck’s gun policy. Today, I’m surrounded by five-year-old boys sitting with their moms at the next table. Now I’m the one with a gun on her hip. The gun makes me more fearful than I could have imagined.

In some way, I feel a certain vindication. I was right to protest Starbucks policy. Today, they have a woman with absolutely no firearms training and a Glock on her hip sitting within arm’s reach of small children, her hands shaking and adrenaline surging.

For parts 2-4 of “My Month with a Gun,” read here.

Photo of the author by Dave Yewman


  1. Even to make a point, I wouldn’t be able to do this. I give you a lot of credit for doing this Heidi and look forward to reading more about your experience.

  2. The author is acting like a teenager with a new iphone in high school. Having it and wanting to touch and play with it yet kinds forbidden to do so. She says she is against all that she is doing to gain insight
    but mot doing what many women do. She is not taking classes or going to the range. Did she even load it and chamber a round? She is talking about kids and women and harming them like the gun os possessed and will make her draw it from the holster and start the carnage with a shooting spree. I am wondering if this gun is tapping into her “evil” subconscious and make want to do harm. I carried a gun on my person for may a year without wanting to randomly pull it out, play with it, or thought about shooting kids playing around or near me or around me.

    • Louise Chanarý says:

      But that’s the thing: not everyone is like you, apparently. People are different: some are peaceful and nice, some are angry and want to do harm. Carrying a gun makes it very easy to do harm and since no background check whatsoever on her is required and she can take it to starbucks where lots of people are, who knows what she’ll do.
      I would be in favor of only allowing guns for sports inside shooting ranges (and not outside unless with very special permission and inspection), the odds of finding some crazy person with a gun in starbucks is lower in that case, I think, because it would take crazy persons a lot more effort to get hold of a gun in the first place.

      • The article specifically states that there was a background check. I don’t know what state this was in either, but in my state involves a lot more for gun permits
        Here’s a little off this website
        Applicants must personally appear and submit a signed application to the License Division when applying. The application fee is $340.00. Effective March 19, 2012, the fingerprint fee is $91.50. New York State Criminal Procedure Law §160.50 (1)(d)(iii) grants the License Division authority to obtain the sealed criminal records of any person who has applied for a license to possess guns. License Division rules require all applicants to disclose their arrest history and submit a Certificate of Disposition showing the offense and disposition of the charges, along with a notarized statement describing the circumstances surrounding each arrest. This information must be provided even if the case was dismissed, the record sealed or the case nullified by operation of law. Failure or refusal to disclose this information will result in the disapproval of your application for a license or permit. A history of arrest or conviction, depending upon the severity of the charges and the amount of time that has elapsed since your last arrest or conviction.
        Your failure to disclose your full criminal history, including sealed arrests, on your application;
        A history of domestic violence incidents;
        A history of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI, DWI, DWAI);
        Your failure to cooperate with the investigation of your application;
        A poor DMV history, including moving violations, failure to appear and answer summonses or failure to pay fines.

        This is not a complete list. If your investigation results in a determination that you lack character and fitness for a license or permit, your application will be denied.

        Here is more info that I found:
        If you delay the application by failing to have your proof of firearms training, or a deposit slip or letter showing a gun that you will have added to your license, then you will not get your license in the 6 months. Licenses can be done in 4 months or less. After 6 months call to see what the delay is. If a judge is busy and has just not gotten around to it there is little that you can do. Your only legal recourse will cost several thousand dollars, and may take several months, and you will need a lawyer. If you cause a delay, your application may expire when it is more than a year or so old.

        I really don’t know where people get this idea that getting a gun permit is easy. It’s not. It can take up to a year, cost hundreds, and you do need to take firearms training. After you do all that there still is a chance they won’t give it to you because you gota speeding ticket or they don’t like you.

        • New york has very strict gun laws and so does NJ. But there are states in this country who will let a citizen buy a gun with a background check that takes no more than 20 minutes. A relative of mine lived in Kentucky for only about 6 months, within 2 months he had a KY driver’s license that he obtained using an expired NJ drivers license and a letter from his employer saying where he currently lived and worked and a banking statement that gave his current address. He was able to use that KY driver’s license to purchase a handgun in less than an hour.

          • How long should a background check take? It’s computerized, a computer can do a task in a fraction of a second that would take me several weeks to complete by hand. Also your friend who bought the handgun, it doesn’t matter how long he’d been in kentucky, since his name and SSN are still searched by that check, so they’d find out what he did even while in NJ.

        • And that is why NY criminals go to easy law states to get their guns. You prove the point that state-by-state variations of gun laws make tough laws toothless – unless we start checking people are all our state borders. Like that will ever happen! The reason Mexico has so much gun violence despite their tough laws is that they have an “easy” neighbor to the north with very few scruples about the misery they cause by walking guns ( millions by estimates) over the border.

          • Sadly it isn’t private gun sales that are the majority of the crime guns in mexico. If you look at it, more than 50% of the guns used by the cartels in these murders were actually stolen from US arms shipments to the mexican army. Corruption is so endemic, they don’t need to waste time driving to the US to pick up a handfull of rifles when they can just steal the good stuff from the army.

          • You cannot legally purchase a handgun in a State where you do no reside.

          • It is already against federal law to enter another state and buy a firearm if it is against the law for that person to purchase a firearm in that persons state of residence.

      • Thea Constantine says:

        I find the comments on this article as fascinating as the article itself- which I really enjoyed. There does seem to be a lot of missing the point here although I’m gratified to see that many readers are in fact ‘getting it’. The author is doing the minimum on purpose here to illustrate a point.

        It’s nice that some states and counties are requiring more stringent rules and regs. NYC has always had a more responsible set of laws, and that’s great– but they’re in the minority. At any rate I’m glad we’re all talking that’s the first step. Talking, not screaming or yelling or finger pointing. Thanks for having the guts to take this issue on.

        • I’m sorry, I don’t think it’s fair to call NYC gun laws completely responsible if you can’t own a firearm just because you have a speeding ticket. I agree there should be more regulation, but making it difficult to get guns to the point of you having to be perfect in the subjective eyes of the state, is kind of ridiculous to me. There’s responsible, and then there’s going too far. It scares me how many people can’t see a middle ground on this considering how passionate both sides are regarding the issue.

      • Bryan Reavis says:

        Unless the firearm was purchased from a private citizen then there WAS a background check. the BATFE form 4473 that you fill out to purchase a firearm from a dealer IS the background check. this is done in ALL states, including those which do not require a firearms permit or concealed carry licensing.

    • Kevin Dunbar says:

      You are of course missing the point. The point is that with no training she could buy a gun and carry it. People buy guns for protection but if you own a gun it actually increases the likelihood that you or someone in your family will be killed. Less than 20% of people are shot by strangers. Fully 80% are killed by family members or friends.

      • candi cabaniss says:

        Kevin, true. Now how many of the victims are women who are killed by husbands, boyfriends, brothers or fathers? The men in these women’s lives who supposedly love them.

      • This is true whether the assault was with a firearm or blunt instrument, hands, knives or any other weapon.

      • Glenn Reinhardt says:

        a lot of people don’t buy a gun for protection. My dad bought me my first gun when I was fourteen. A JC Higgins (Sears) 22 caliber 22 short, long or long rifle. It was bolt action, each round had to be loaded, the action closed and then the firing pin spring action had to be pulled back before it would fire. My dad had been in the army, classified as a Sharp-shooter. The first thing he did was show me how the rifle worked, then he said “Son, never point it at anything unless you want to shoot it!”. My mother had 62 reasons why I shouldn’t have it, but dad said I had a level head and it would be fine. I went squirrel hunting out back in the woods, but, unless I had already made up my mind that if I killed it I would clean it, ready for mom to fry. I hear men in this day and age say their not interested in eating it, just killing it. I never in my 60 years that my dad was alive disappoint him.
        He bought my first shotgun when I was fifteen. The point I’m trying to make is that these guns were not for my protection. If you are going to buy a gun for the protection of yourself and your family don’t buy a pistol or revolver of any caliber. Buy one of the short barreled shotguns on the market today, preferently a 12 gage pump with straight bore or improved cylinder. You won’t have to be nearly as good a shot and the results will be far better.

    • Dennis Toomey says:

      Kevin, I think you might have missed the point. It shows how easy it is to get a gun, a carry permit and to have it on your hip everywhere you go…with no idea of what to do or how to use it. I don’t think the author thinks it’s a good idea…quite the contrary.

    • anthrogirl says:

      My daughter took to her new iphone like she was born with it, unlike this author who had knowledge she was carrying a weapon that people use everyday to kill others, by accident or on purpose. She realized she did not have the training necessary as is the case with many “responsible gu owners” Amyone who cannot appreciate the magnitude of the author’s ignorance and the danger it posed to others is certainly not the type who deserves a gun. Gun owners should understand that they are carrying a lethal weapon, that they should be trained in how to maintain and use it and they should understand that they are ultimately, regardless of the law, responsible how that gun is used.

    • Are you aware that 100,000 people a year get shot with guns in the US and that about 12,000 of these are fatal. Are your also aware that the US ranked 100/162 on peace and safety, behind counties like Zimbabwe?

    • PR Johnson says:

      David you are twisting her words to suit your point of view. She has alot of guts buying and wearing a gun for one month to prove a point. Anyone can easily purchase a gun and walk around with it in the the presence of children. She is mortified by this situation. Accusing her of wanting to shoot kids is disgusting.

  3. You may have done nothing illegal, but by carrying a firearm as you are, you are doing something wrong. Morally wrong. One who chooses to carry a firearm for self-defense also has a moral obligation to learn how to safely and properly use said firearm. That includes a class to learn the basics of operating the firearm safely, and perhaps a class on the intricacies of the law in your jurisdiction.

    While the law may not require such a course, any responsible gun owner would take (at least) one.
    I think you would find that most of the people you see who are carrying a firearm in public have, in fact, some knowledge of the firearm they are carrying.

    If you were local to me, I would gladly offer you a course in basic safety.

    • Louise Chanarý says:

      Interesting. So, why isn’t that REQUIRED before buying a gun? And why would anyone oppose such a requirement if it is, as you say, the moral thing to do?
      Do you think all people who buy guns share your ideas about what is moral and that anyone who buys a gun must be a responsible person?

      • OldNYFirefighter says:

        Many States do require you to shoot a handgun as a requirement in the course. Some states have no gun safety course. I personally think it should be a requirement & so should some range time shooting one. There is a hundred things that should not be attempted without training in doing it safely.

        • Juniper says:

          And this is why it should be a FEDERAL requirement, and not left to individual states.

          • BudHall says:

            Juniper… It IS a Federal requirement. The entire process is a Federal requirement. Some States choose to add their own restrictions on top of the Federally required background check; like waiting periods, permits, etc.

        • The fellow who killed 26 people in Newtown had plenty of “range time”, thanks to his mother – whom he shot. They were both “law abiding, responsible gun owners” – until he went beserk.

          • Adam Lanza did what MOST CRIMINALS DO, they stole the gun from someone else who legally bought and own it.
            His mother was a legal gun owner but Adam Lanza was not… He didn’t have a background check or a concealed carry permit or any of the other training and testing required in CT BECAUSE HE STOLE TO GET GUNS!!! No law that has been passed since Sandy Hook shooting would have stopped Adam Lanza from his misdeeds.

    • But how do we know that a lot of others aren’t doing the same? If it’s morally wrong to do this without a smidge of training in Heidi’s state, then the law must be morally wrong. It seems to be changes to the law should be in order.

      • Scott E. says:

        Joan, My state does not require training either, but you would find there are fewer accidental shootings here than in many states with requirements on training.

        Imagine the horrors of children walking down the streets and getting on buses of NYC and other cities and towns on their way to schools with rifles…It happened just a few decades ago. Many public schools had their own rifle teams and taught gun safety, there were no mass shootings and people were much more respectful and polite to each other. Maybe it is not a change in laws needed, maybe just a change back to the way society was then.

    • Christine M says:

      You’re missing her point. It’s all well and good that you feel people should be morally obliged to know gun safety but the fact of the matter is no law dictates this. And thus, there is no way to know how many gun owners have taken classes or have any idea how to use the weapon. We are trusted to police ourselves as citizens on this and unfortunately that can have bad consequences. Like when children find loaded weapons and fire them at other or themselves. Or that someone may be trained and a law abiding citizen until they choose not to be that way one day. It’s not moral and it’s not right but it happens.

      • My sister in suburban Los Angeles was told she had to take classes before she could get pepper spray to protect herself from dogs while running. However, she could buy a gun and shoot them.

        • Then your sister was lied to. A carry license in non-rural California is as difficult to find as hen’s teeth, unless one happens to be either a) very wealthy or politically connected or b) in a profession like security or law enforcement . In other words, they’re virtually impossible to get for the average Joe or Jane who can’t prove they’re in danger. Also, unloaded open carry is no longer legal, so whoever suggested this to your sister was basically advocating that she should break the law, which is probably against the law in itself.

          I just love how these stories go, because it’s always the same. Nobody ever qualifies who told “my sister”, “my cousin” or “my uncle Joe” to do whatever. Was it her boyfriend, a random cop, her licensed gun dealer, or her self-defense instructor? Who?

    • Ah, another one who misses the point: that, no, the law doesn’t require her to do ANYTHING nresponsible. Can’t help but thihnk that some gun owners are intentionally obtuse where this subject is concerned.

  4. You are going at this from an activist point of view. A women who wanted protection, and not a storyline, would have asked about training and how to clear a firearm. I trained a friend this weekend on the safety aspects and the marksmanship aspects of her gun. She doesn’t want to shoot somebody anymore than you do but if someone did break into her home she can defend herself. You are irresponsible for carrying a gun without learning the proper uses of the firearm. If you actually took lessons like anyone in your situation would do, you would not be scared of it. Try taking lessons and then write an article after you have educated yourself.

    • Louise Chanarý says:

      Right, as if irresponsible people don’t buy guns.
      Apparently not anyone who buys a gun knows how to use it (see the above for proof) and there is no check whatsoever to find out.

    • Dennis Toomey says:

      Isn’t her 2nd Amendment right to get a gun and carry it with no idea of what to do? I thought that’s what all the fuss was about….how your 2nd Amendment rights are more important than my right to be safe from people who carry a gun with no clue of how to use it.

    • ” but if someone did break into her home she can defend herself.”

      this is HIGHLY doubtful. I mean it’s the classic NRA boogeyman fantasy, they want you to believe you can, but in practice that gun is more likely to be used against her. The whole point here seems to be how one’s mindset is altered by the carrying of a weapon. All gun purchases, for protection, are based on fear…and the NRA wants you to believe you are buying security, when it seems the opposite is true.

      • ezkl2230 says:

        Sorry, but the objective data established in the report commissioned by the president’s executive order do not support.your statement. The report states clearly that firearms are used AT LEAST AS MANY TIMES for self defense as they are for the commission of crimes, and it debunks your claim that a firearm in the hands of a civilian is more likely to be used against the owner than against the bad guy. Repeating a myth doesn’t make it true.

    • Christine M says:

      Right. So you can hate on her for being irresponsible but that’s it. She’s not doing anything illegal. You’re just acknowledging the fact that she’s doing something entirely unsafe and there’s nothing the law or other citizens can do about it. It’s not like she’s someone who is seen driving wrecklessly and pulled over and has her license yanked. She would have to do something pretty extreme for a cop to step in and say, hey, your CC license has been revoked. That is the point.

  5. I have been carrying since the day I have been allowed to and have been shooting for much longer. As a responsible gun owner I recommend to all of my friends that are considering carrying a firearm to get some practice in before carrying every day. I applaud your stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a walk in someone else’s shoes. I respect anyone that tries something like you are doing.

    Personally, I shoot a minimum of 1,000 rounds out of any gun to prove it is reliable before I will put it on my belt. The more you practice with your firearm, the more comfortable you will be with it. Try taking it apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together. I recommend taking advantage of a shooting class. You never know, you might end up liking it.

    Good luck!

    • Louise Chanarý says:

      Again (see my comments above): not everyone who buys a gun knows how to use it. There is no check on that whatsoever. Now she can take it to starbucks and shoot kids by accident (or not by accident, whatever she feels like actually, maybe she hs a hell of a day and gets a little crazy).
      And if you all (the other commenters too) say that taking lessons etc is what any responsible gun owner would do anyway, then why not make a mandatory exam part of getting a permit in order to protect those kids?

      • Followupshot says:

        you raise valid points.. but im heartened by the fact the few commentators here all seem to be responsible gun owners suggesting there is a further step required. i think that represents gun-owners as a good bunch working with a broken system.

      • The same could be said about buying a motorcycle, boat, atv, large RV mobile home, etc. All which kill thousands of people a year, probably more than gun deaths

        • Motorcycles, atvs large RV mobile homes, etc. don’t come anywhere near to the number of deaths by guns in America. None of them were designed to kill people. Sometimes they do, by accident but hardly ever on purpose. There is a huge difference here. Your logic is flawed as are your facts.

        • Christine M says:

          Yes, and you have to pass tests to operate all of those. And not a gun. Also guns are designed to kill living creatures specifically. Vehicles aren’t generally used as weapons. That’s just a silly argument.

      • It is mandatory to take a gun safety class in a lot of states I had to take a 8 hr class and have a background check done by the sheriff’s dept to get my concealed carry permit and every other gun I’ve bought I’ve had a federal background check performed before I could purchase the firearm

    • Your reply is more rational than many I’ve read, but in the end you miss the point: she doesn’t have to do anything at all to learn how to use that gun responsibly. Furthermore, the Newtown shooter had been brought up with guns, was a “responsible gun owner” – before he went beserk and killed 26 people, mostly small children, plus the mother who had trained him.

  6. If you’re uneducated about firearms and a nervous CLP carrier, you SHOULD NOT BE packing. Take handgun safety course. There are course available strictly to women. Common sense ! Also, it baffles me why your gun dealer would recommend a Glock for a first firearm! Always do your research before purchasing.

  7. You have gone about carrying a gun for the wrong reason and in a dangerous manner. It appears from what you have said that you are opposed to the concept of carrying a weapon and give indications that, even at this early stage in your experiment, you are drawing conclusions. I would urge you to seek instruction in the use of a handgun, particularly a Glock which is not the most friendly firearm for a beginner with no experience or knowledge. I have been carrying a sidearm for over thirty years and have enjoyed target practicing with it as well as, over the years, teaching my kids to deal safely with firearms, of course based on their age at different times in their lives. They are now all adults and are safe and comfortable around guns. Most importantly, PLEASE, find a local instructor or gun club and get some instruction before you end shooting yourself in the foot or hurting someone because of your lack of training. Approach your experiment with an open mind and get yourself a copy of Dan Baum’s “Gun Guys”, it may give you a different perspective on the majority of “gun guys” out there.

    • Christine M says:

      She doesn’t have to, though. That’s what the pro-gun lobby argues against. She doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone and can do what she wants because, well, freedom. The safety of others is trumped by the Second Amendment to NRA folk and that’s all that matters to them. That’s where she’s making her point.

    • Ah, another intentionally obtuse reader. Did you really miss that she was doing all this to prove how EASY it is to own a gun and walk around with it anywhere – even approach a cop?

  8. Followupshot says:

    in my opinion safety starts with attitude and ends with competence. i think a large piece of the right-attitude is missing from many of the carry legislation i see spoken of.

    in short, get a good attitude, get some training with it and develop the competence to be a safe, confident owner/carrier.

    unfortunately it seems that people choose to exercise their right to be ignorant too often – yes i want a gun, but no i don’t want to do it anyway but the way i want. you call it freedom, i call irresponsible.

    • Yes, people choose to be “ignorant” of gun safety. That is precisely her point. When people choose to take a lethal weapon everywhere they go just to show how tough they are ( or cowardly), there is a distinct need for tougher regulations for owning a gun. Certainly a universal background check is a start ( but the NRA scared our spineless Congress out of passing one), but also we need a national law to prevent buying gun(s) for the express purpose of selling or “giving” to another person who wouldn’t pass a background check (happens all the time). Unfortunately these common sense preventions still don’t get past the NRA and their paid manufacturer lobbyists.

  9. She says very clearly that “I have four rules: Carry it with me at all times, follow the laws of my state, only do what is minimally required for permits, licensing, purchasing and carrying, and finally be prepared to use it for protecting myself at home or in public.” She intends to show what happens when a person follows the law, but DOES THE MINIMUM REQUIRED (not what is moral, sane, upright, careful, reasonable, safe, etc.). Therefore I would guess that her intent is to encourage a conversation about the current MINIMUM REQUIRED and whether that MINUMUM is enough.

    • well as she says finally be prepared to use it for protecting myself at home or in public. Thats where the training comes in and if she has not figured that out by now she needs to think twice about carrying it.

      • And I suppose those who shoot up malls and theaters, churches, have all taken gun safety courses? If they did, they apparently flunked them. They still got to keep their guns, though.

  10. Louise said that there was no check whatsoever. When she bought that gun they did a background check with the NICS to see if she was a criminal. Yes if you are a law abiding citizen you can buy a gun. She bought a gun (not wanting one to begin with) not wanting to learn how to use it? That is ridiculous. It’s like buying a car and not learning how to drive but sitting behind the wheel to see what it’s like to drive. If you are going to do a study go all out. Think like someone who is wanting a gun. Let’s say single women living in a iffy neighborhood want something to protect herself. She buys a gun. what next? Does she carry it around scared to death of it? No! She wanted it and she wants to learn how to shoot it. Unrealistic article with the outcome already determined from the beginning. Please prove me wrong.

    • Another one intentionally missing the point of the bare minimum required to own and carry a loaded weapon.

  11. Litenarata says:

    The cop was right, you ARE being an idiot. No one, absolutely NO ONE, who does not even know how to check to see if their gun is loaded, or knows if it is loaded or not, should be walking around with one. You could have accidentally killed or maimed someone just picking it up the wrong way. (no external safety on a gun for a total newbie? are you kidding me?!)

    Yes, you made the point that any untrained person can stroll up and buy a gun in minutes, but we already knew that. Putting yourself and others in danger because you literally have NO CLUE how to handle the deadly weapon you are holding is scarily irresponsible, no matter what your motives or goals are. And the dealer who let you leave the store with a magazine inserted is equally irresponsible. (MORE, actually. He should have known better) That’s a basic rule of weapons handling, you take the stinking magazine out when you are done shooting.

    • And of course that is what some gun permit holders do. They are not required to go through training in some states. Doesn’t that put others in danger? Heidi is just one of many who buy their guns and get their permits in this way. If no training is required, then we have way too many people carrying guns in public places with no training and no knowledge of their gun. That is a bad idea. Heidi is just exposing the flaws in our gun laws.

    • Christine M says:

      It’s all still perfectly legal. The writer and the gun dealer didn’t break any laws.

  12. I would like to know where this took place. I know the state I live in requires tons of paperwork, hundreds of dollars, back ground and all sorts of other checks, firearms training, and months of waiting for any kind of gun permit.

  13. What a great article. I will pray for your safety. Thank you for highlighting the stupidity of Starbucks’s policy.

  14. Bob Bates says:

    Heidi dramatically makes the point that our society permits and indeed encourages easy access to guns. Those who argue she should learn to shoot are missing the point. The point is that there is no sensible reason to allow citizens do buy firearms in the way our national, piecemeal state by state system functions.
    She did not buy the gun for self protection. She bought the gun to demonstrate the idiocy of a system that allows just anybody to legally purchase a weapon of gross destruction. Our society is awash with guns. You gotta believe most people who own them have no idea how to use them. Let’s change the system.

  15. Suzanne says:

    I really enjoyed your blog! Please be Very Careful! I wish you could put it in a gun safe but unfortunately a lot of gun owners don’t lock their guns up either. Be safe and keep on blogging.

  16. The guy that owned the gun that was used to shoot my daughter was taught how to use a gun. He was also taught gun safety. He was a criminal investigator that worked for the United States Department of Defense but left his gun accessible to kids, a violation of the California Penal Code 12035, the Children’s Firearm Prevention Act. I know his job requires a gun and I support law enforcement, a cop shot a crazy guy just the other day at the Santa Monica College before he had the opportunity to kill as many as he possibly could with his machine gun. So how do we stop the senseless shootings??? Laws don’t seam to do much…

    • WuzYoingOnceToo says:

      – “a cop shot a crazy guy just the other day at the Santa Monica College before he had the opportunity to kill as many as he possibly could with his machine gun”

      Just for the record, he didn’t have a machine gun.

    • Keith_Indy says:

      How do we stop murder and violence? That’s the real question.

  17. I may be wrong, but isn’t this intended to be a “4 part series” with this post being Part 1? Maybe none of us should jump to conclusions about her intent to get, or not to get, gun safety training as she goes. I would also posit there are many who enter into gun ownership with the same trepidation the author did – with uncertainty, with hesitation, with a modicum of fear. Let’s wait to see where she winds up at the end of her experiment, please. Some are advocating she will be more comfortable with the weapon in the end. Others are already accusing her of pre-experiment bias that will skew what they consider to be an inevitable outcome based on her gun safety activism. Personally, to me the proof will be in the pudding one way or the other. And, for the record, I’m a gun owner, but I also advocate for what I consider to be common sense gun violence prevention measures, and I applaud the author for her efforts.

  18. I think this experiment is necessary. In order to understand the other side you must always put yourself in their shoes. I think it would be interesting to continue the experiment, but to do it with training as well. You must always understand both sides in order to make sound recommendations.

  19. I’m amazed at some of these comments. This lady is making a point. She is showing how easy it is to buy a gun. Just as drivers can be irresponsible (speeding, drinking), gun-owners can be irresponsible. If that wasn’t true, then there would be no accidental deaths. Yes, it’s irresponsible to have a gun and have no idea what to do with it, but THAT’S THE POINT. Training should be required. Seems like a responsible gun dealer, seeing it was obvious she had no idea what she was doing, would have explained to her how to unload her weapon, how to be safe. Why isn’t he the one being chastised?

    • I absolutely agree with you about the dealer! Very irresponsible of him to not FULLY explain EVERY function of the firearm.

    • Catherine says:

      I agree about the gun dealer. Most would not be so irresponsible. They don’t want their business linked to tragedy. I also think this is misleading, as the majority of states do require training before getting a carry permit.

      • Heather says:

        Actually, Catherine, only 4 states require training and the vast majority of states do not even require permits. You can see the state-by-state list on Wikipedia.

        • I looked at the section that talks about Michigan gun laws and it is not accurate. If you are interested in knowing what a state’s gun laws are you should go to that state’s website and actually research it yourself instead of relying on Wikipedia for your information.

          • Very true Eric, you would have to click every link in the article pertaining to each state to get a full picture of what is required per state, and even then because it is Wiki, it is only part of the picture. Most states, in order to obtain a CCW require some class be taken prior to issuing the permit. Just a quick check and I found more than your 4 that require some level of training or required classes to obtain a permit.

  20. For the record, in NC, we do require training for concealed weapon permit holders. We do not, however, require training just to purchase a gun. In NC, if you don’t have a concealed weapon permit, you can still carry your weapon, it just has to be carried in plain view. Without training.

  21. Genitrix Georges says:

    I am hoping that most people will see the point in this 30 day experiment. I am hoping that when other people at Starbucks see her casually drinking a latte with a gun at her hip, they will realize how ridiculous these “open gun” policies are. Most people don’t see a random person carrying a gun on them, so they don’t feel the need to protest or speak up about our easy going gun laws. I’m sure if a few of us walked into Starbucks with gun at our hip, a large majority of people would stop going to Starbucks. I know if I was in any store with a random person shopping up and down the aisle who had a gun at their hip I would walk out of the store and leave my shopping cart full of stuff! Wouldn’t you?

  22. Such a false sense security. Exactly how would a person carrying a weapon keep some one else from taking the gun from them.? To carry a weapon should require one to know martial art

    • There’s a difference between open carry and concealed carry. Open carry means the gun is out in the open for everyone to see. Concealed carry means the gun is hidden. Concealed carry doesn’t 100% guarantee nobody will be able to grab your gun, but it’s hard to take a gun from someone if you don’t think they have one.

    • ProgunAlaska says:

      It’s called a retention holster. One or more covers, levers or buttons must be manipulated to remove the gun from the holster.

  23. You make a good point, it is easy to obtain a firearm. I as a gun owner and carrier have always felt that there needs to be training requirements. In my mind the founding fathers wouldn’t want idiots with with guns, they would want competent and trained citizens with firearms. I hope you got some training and are getting trigger time with the pistol so you are safe with it. Also I do admire you for being willing to step across the isle, even if your motives are not that which most gun owners would like to see.

  24. Koldobika2020 says:

    If you had familiarized yourselves with handguns before deciding to carry one, as most handgun buyers do, you wouldn’t have shaking hands and surging adrenaline. It would be as normal to you as carrying a cell-phone, although you would have a heightened sense of situational awareness about people approaching you from the direction your holster is facing (P.S. it’s better to concealed-carry if you are concerned about safety; open-carry, while it absolutely should be legal, is only good for hunting and making political statements).

  25. You have set yourself up for failure, and I believe on purpose to make a point.
    Where did you take your concealed carry class and not have to take an exam and qualify?
    Though I see what you are trying to do, this is a skewed experiment. People who have committed shootings were not new gun owners that had bad days and on a whim decided to kill a bunch of people. These are people who illegally obtain firearms and commit heinous crimes.
    There is no more training to get drivers licenses and no one goes off the deep end about motor vehicle deaths. If we made it harder to get drivers licenses would that stop people from driving drunk?
    People who undertake the responsibility of buying a firearm for protection will not just go with the minimum amount of training, As a responsible gun owner it is your obligation to become knowledgeable and proficient with your sidearm. If you make a mistake it will be you that is liable, no one else. So it is in your best interest to be a responsible gun owner.
    If you look at states that have made it legal to carry a sidearm you will see a trend of crime rates going down. WRAL did a story about that very subject in Raleigh NC.
    Here is some more information.

    Then look at the crime rates of cities with very restrictive gun laws such as Chicago, and Los Angeles.

    Do yourself and take a class and really try to learn your pistol.

  26. I just want to add, I feel that there should be training to and background checks to own a gun. I fully believe that there are some people who shouldn’t have them. I also feel that private gun sales and gun show sales should have background checks too.

  27. Well I think everyone, pro gun and anti gun, can agree. IF you are going to carry a gun GET SOME GOOD TRAINING!

  28. Jimmy on Guns & Jesus… 🙂

  29. Christine Nelson says:

    I agree with the cop you spoke to. Get some training. Now.
    So training isn’t required, but you know, I read the instructions on my dishwasher before I used it. I practiced in a parking lot before I rode my motorcycle on the streets.
    Seriously, a responsible gun owner gets training.
    And the idea of walking around with an unloaded gun is just wrong; you are begging to be a target. When I’m at Starbucks, I carry concealed, because I don’t want the first shot a bad guy shoots to be at this little old grandma.

    • Christine M says:

      That’s irrelevant to the law, though. To operate your motorcycle on the street, you had to take a test. No such thing is required for a weapon and the NRA is hellbent on keeping things that way. They want to limit restrictions on firearms to the fullest extent at all times. You reep what you sow. You can be upset she has no training but there is nothing you can do about from a legal point of view. You have to sit at the sidelines and just HOPE she’ll become a responsible gun owner in your mind.

      • Across the country The Brady Act requires that you must go through a background check. In Connecticut, you must apply, have your finger prints take, this goes to the State PD and FBI, must complete an 8 hour class and live fire, and must demonstrate proper gun handling before you can get your permit. This does not stop criminal or the mentally ill. The Sandy Hook School shooter, killed is mother, stole the guns, and committed 41 federal crimes before he shot up the school.

  30. Lee Chavez says:

    Did you notice that the gun did not fly out of the holster and start killing people? Did you notice that your
    conscience did not allow you to kill innocent people at will. It is an inanimate object.
    Personally I have carried a firearm for over twenty years and still have threatened or harmed a single
    person. Yes, I am a hard core right winger. I am also a human being with a conscience like your self.
    Thank you for exploring the other side.

  31. This is an interesting journey indeed. I admire your desire to see the other side even if it sounds a little closed minded. I don’t mean that as an insult, just pointing out that your journey is clearly from the point of view of someone afraid of firearms and that no doubt influences your feelings and behaviors. Not making a judgment about those feelings just stating that they are different than mine, I find them interesting, and I am glad you are sharing this experience for us all to think about. As you continue down this path try to walk in the shoes of any potential person that could benefit or be hurt by changing the system.

    I think it would be good for everyone that owns a gun to learn to operate it properly but I still have a hard time thinking it should be mandated. I come to this conclusion carefully by thinking through how the mandates work and what they actually inhibit. Literally they restrict someone that is interested in following the law from obtaining a firearm quickly. In essence I feel these kinds of laws do little to nothing to stop criminals and murderers while limiting a potential victim’s ability to defend themselves. For an abused woman, the threat of a gun may be the only thing that saves her life (the weapon rarely even needs to be used).

    You may argue that those cases are small in number. So are the kind of accidental shootings that you imply we are at risk of when people can buy firearms without going through a training class. I found some data for 2004 (had trouble finding good statistics newer) that showed 2% of all gun related deaths were ruled as accidental (and of that half were hunting or otherwise outside the home). That means that 98% or more are ruled as intentional. For the most part our gun deaths are not due to a lack of training.

    There are no words to express the tragedy that some have to face. Whether or not they are a small percentage means nothing at that point. I want my children to reach adulthood and I would like them not to have to fear something like Newtown. I just don’t see how any of these increased waiting times, required training classes, etc help that. In an ideal world I would love to prevent mentally ill people from obtaining weapons but nothing proposed by our government has given us any reason to believe that will be the case. The reality of Newtown is that the shooter stole the weapons from a legal gun owner, he was not officially diagnosed with any mental illness that would prevent him from buying his own firearms in any of the governments proposed solutions, and he spent hundreds of hours learning to shoot.

    So I am left with the position that I don’t want to take away from the rights of law abiding people that may be in desperate need without any reasonable expectation that it will impact crime or make a single person safer. I truly believe that the people in our government understand this point and only try to push these programs to appear to be tough on crime and help them get re-elected.

    • MJ Keeton says:

      Do you know how many abused women are killed with guns every year? Far, far more than those who defend themselves with guns. Please do some further reading and educate yourself about the danger of guns mixed with domestic violence. Women are the ones who lose their lives, not abusers.

      • Can you support your statement with sources?
        What chances do you suppose the abused women kill with guns every year, would have had if they had trained with a firearm and refused to be a victim at the hands of anyone?
        Interested in seeing your stats and source.

  32. To be perfectly honest, what she is going through is pretty normal for first time gun carriers. Ive been carrying for a few years, worked as a deputy, and a competition shooter, it never leaves the back of your mind no matter how used to it you are. There is a lot of responsibility, as I was taught; you are walking on thin ice, it is best to learn where the ice is thickest. I remember my first time carrying in publicbefore I was a cop was horrible. I always thought everyone could see it and might make an issue of it. I was far more nervous about having the cops called on me then I was about badguys. Now, it is just apart of me like a watch. Just like my mulitool, pocketknfe, and cell phone. It has its purpose, and that’s why i have it.

    As far as recommendations, conceal it. from a safety standpoint, and as a experiment. Let your day to day life as it normally would be, just as thousands who carry do. The object isnt to carry a gun and let everyone know about it, its about being yourself while sharing the responsibility people who carry in public do. Police carry openly because it is part of the uniform, and the first step toward a show of force, and subsequently also paints a giant target on them. Concealed you arent there to show force, you just have that capability if in the gravest extremes if you need it. A fire extinguisher doesn’t make one a fire fighter, nor a mustang make one a race car driver. People who confuse that will get themselves hurt for thinking it. Know your limits on what you can do and what you will do. Stay safe, keep your head down.

  33. Yankee Flyer says:

    Thank you, Ms. Yewman. Your courageous efforts to reduce gun violence and promote public health & safety are much appreciated.

  34. I just heard that you are not going to be able to continue this series due to the trolls and hate mongers within the gun community who lack the ability to understand that their view of the world is not the only one. They demand respect for their gun ownership yet fail the most basic of tests of giving that same respect to others.

    I look forward to a time you can continue this discussion that so needs to be held.

    Take care,


  35. Shaun Dakin says:

    Did I read correctly in the New York Times that Ms. Magazine is not publishing the next 2 articles in this series (

    If this is true this is a complete abdication of Ms. Magazine’s leadership and a further example of how the gun “rights” / NRA bully their way to winning the debate.

    Well, guess what? There are many of us who are working day in and day out on positive gun violence reduction methods (gun control) that refuse to be bullied by the gun people.

    This is disappointing that a magazine with your reputation would bow to the altar of guns.

    Shaun Dakin
    The March on Washington for Gun Control
    ART = AMMO

    • We have not “bowed to the altar of guns.” Ms. Yewman’s follow-up articles will be published in other outlets.

      • Long Nguyen says:

        Thank you for not bowing to pressure and thank you for publishing Ms. Yewman’s follow-up articles. I actually wanted to do the exact same thing as Ms. Yewman but haven’t had the chance. I want to thank her for pioneering this effort.

      • I’m glad to hear that the series will continue in The Huffington Post. I’d prefer it in Ms., just because I have more respect for the magazine. And while I understand that the moderation of comments stresses a small staff, I wish the magazine had decided to simply not host comments online. Let people who feel truly passionate write an actual letter, via USPS!, to share their opinions. One of the problems with online commenting, and the anonymity inherent in it, is that it becomes a type of theater in itself.

        While I’m disappointed in the decision Ms. has made, I thank the editors for getting Ms. Yewman’s series off to a great start.

  36. It’s too easy to get guns, and you aren’t required to have even the most BASIC training. Ridiculous. I don’t want to come into anyone’s house and take their guns – there are 2 in our house. I don’t know anyone who wants to over ride the right to bear arms. Most just want us to have open talk about anything we can do to make the legal possession of guns be a thoughtful process. Will any laws stop gun violence? Of course not, and most pro gun control people understand that. But if we can save even one school child, another John Kennedy or Lennon, or someone you love, isn’t it worth open minded discussion? Hard liners on any “side” are the ones who concern me most. Those unwilling to at least listen are the problem, not the ones asking for discussion and review.

  37. Wrote a song about Starbucks’ cavalier attitude towards pistol-packing patrons in their stores. Though you would enjoy hearing it:

  38. In Indiana it’s much easier to get a gun. All you have to do is go to a gun show or walk out on the street. Find a “private seller” ( straw seller) hand over the money and the gun is yours. No muss, no fuss, no background checks. It ‘s easier to get a gun in Indiana then it is to vote.

    • Kollector says:

      Is it illegal in IN to sell your personal property? I’m in MN and its not against the law to sell your own personal property. When it comes to firearms, every time I’ve sold in a private party transaction, I do take the due dilligence and require the buyer to show me Valid mn I’d and a valid MN permit to purchase of permit to carry a handgun. It’s more than what is required by law, but my personal requirements are if a higher standard.

      Additionally, the term “straw purchase” refers to an individual making a legal purchase at a Federally licensed firearms dealer and then giving the legally acquired firearm to someone that cannot legally possess it. It is a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

    • Most sellers at gun shows are not individuals, they are FFL dealers that must keep a record and run a background check as well. There are a few individual stands or people come together to run a stand because it doesn’t make sense to rent a stand at $100-500 to sell a $500 firearm. Most secondary sales are run through FFLs through shops anyway, drop off a firearm for the shop to sell for you, which requires the FFL do a check. A straw sale is selling a firearm to a restricted individual that cannot otherwise purchase one. The number of actual straw sales are extremely limited.

  39. Marlene says:

    There are several people commenting here who complain about the lack of a training or testing requirement to get a carry permit. In the author’s state that seems to be the case. It is quite different in other states.
    Some gun owners here are describing the author’s behavior (carrying a gun without knowing how to even handle it safely) as irresponsible.
    Some respond that many gun rights supporters oppose a training requirement. That’s true, but it skips over the reasons why. Yes, there are a small number of people who think there should be no more barriers to carrying a gun than to carrying a pair of shoes on your feet. There is another view that is not being considered: that the question of a training requirement is not simply a yes or no question. Frequently a “training requirement” acts as a de-facto class barrier. I am all for a requirement of competence, but will fight tooth and nail to prevent the furthering of public policy that asserts the notion that only people above a certain income level matter.
    A certain poll suggested that 80% of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases, while the actual support for the proposed law defeated in the Senate earlier this year was much lower. The opposition to badly written gun laws that are assembled by people who know nothing about guns or even the details of current law is not necessarily opposition to what the proposed law claims to be doing. I am a gun owner who would very much like to see expanded background check requirements, but that law was full of other problems.

    The author is endangering the lives of people around her to make a point. That’s pretty disgusting behavior whether or not it is legally prohibited. Some will say that the point of what she is doing is to show that she is legally allowed to do this irresponsible thing. That’s true, but she clearly seems to know better yet she proceeds. That’s some reprehensible shit.

  40. You attempted to do that absolute minimum and know that absolute minimum, and you seemed to believed you accomplished that goal.

    So my question is…what was that minimum? By the end of your experience of purposefully trying to know as little as possible you learned about your Glock, learned that there is no external safety, so it would have to be treated accordingly to be safe. You learned about checking the magazine and chamber for safety to know if it is loaded or not. You completely left out your holster selection experience, which is unfortunate because that is just as much a part of the process, yet we can assume you found a proper holster and learned how to insert and secure the firearm into it.

    So there you were, at the end of it all, with a Glock with no less than 3 internal safeties, understanding what circumstances make it fire or not fire, understanding it’s lack of external safety and therefore knowing that it’s hot when chambered, having received instruction from a police officer how to check chambering and magazine status, properly holstered on your hip in a fashion that is no less safe than the average police officer’s rig on their side. With this knowledge and setup you were able to go out in public, the pistol remained secured the entire time and never fired negligently (which is basically impossible with a Glock that is holstered) and never became unsecured. All this while specifically attempting to learn as little as possible.

    Seems to me like you actually learned exactly how to safely carry a firearm, did so successfully, but then used your more than adequate writing skills to skew the experience toward your original bias. You’re a fantastic writer…but a lousy scientist, you allowed your original prejudice to affect your observations.

  41. I completely agree with Bryan in that you actually learned some things that you didn’t know already. By the end of this, you learned how to safely operate your firearm and safely carry it.

    I understand the purpose of the experiment is to show how little knowledge of firearm safety is required to buy and carry a handgun in your state (as long as you can pass a background check). You raise an interesting point and perhaps there can be a dialogue on if we can require training or safety requirements without violating 2nd Amendment rights. However, I see no evidence to suggest that the majority (or even a significant amount) of gun buyers purchase and carry a gun irresponsibly simply because they legally can. In my experience, most people who purchase a handgun actively educate themselves on how to operate their firearm safely. Perhaps there is something we can do to ensure that the few bad apples who would act in such a way are required to educate themselves before owning and carrying a lethal weapon (without violating their rights).

  42. Many of the comments I read on here suggest that we need to require background checks and training before allowing the purchase of a gun, and in the next breath lament the fact that the Newtown killings and others were perpetrated by individuals who had gun training and may or may not have acquired their weapons of mass killing legally.
    I even remember one comment about ‘having a bad day and getting a little crazy’. So, please tell me how more background checks and training prevent someone from ‘having a bad day and getting a little crazy’.
    I’ll admit, it does seem like the author was certainly able to act very irresponsibly, and actually carry openly in public without any common sense preparation, and that is something that should be addressed, but I don’t believe mandated training and more background checks will put a dent in curbing future Newtown like tragedies.

  43. Ed Hill says:

    Thanks for writing this article. I think it’s a useful learning exercise. I’ve been involved in training and some competitive shooting since 1988. I’d like to offer a few thoughts.
    I recently did some defensive shooting training with my brother & his wife after 2 neighbor’s houses were robbed. As a new gun owner, it’s prudent to learn the basics of safe gun handling and how to operate your weapon safely.
    You were right to seek out advice. As a gun owner, please take the time to get further training and also to practice loading and unloading the gun in a safe manner. The simplest solution may be to go to a gun range and ask the range operators to coach you through the basics. This will dramatically improve your confidence and reduce the risk of owning your gun.
    Good luck. I look forward to seeing the rest of the articles in your series.

  44. I agree with your article. I wish you hadn’t found it necessary to tell us you drink lattes and love/hate Starbucks. You do not have to ‘buy in’ to current social verification.

  45. The cop was right.

  46. Guten Tag! ichh einfach Auf den Merk bieten Ihnen eine große
    big thumbs up für Ihren ausgezeichneete Informationen Sie haben hier zu
    diesem Beitrag. Ich bbin Rückkehr Blog für mehr bald.

  47. Really great this post,Thank you.

  48. Awesome post thank you for sharing

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