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Silver Threads: On (dis)arming old white-haired women

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

This morning’s delivery of two newspapers brought with it in one an 8-by-10 glossy page from the Home Defense Foundation of New Orleans. On one side was a picture of a 40- or 50-something woman, identified as a lawyer, and quoted as supporting “the right of self-defense” and the foundation’s purpose in upholding it.

On the other side was the content that troubles me: a photo of a white-haired woman and the lines, “I’m over 70 … I never shot a gun in my life but even a senior citizen like me can learn!”

I’m not going to comment on my objections to the HDF website — address supplied on the page, and which I visited and reviewed — because I’m not James Gill or Jarvis DeBerry and not even Maureen Dowd or Peggy Noonan.

And even though I’m an ardent feminist, I’ll leave a discussion of untrained old men with guns alone. (Some of them, like the guy at the airport, make do with machetes.)

But I feel qualified to judge the wisdom of turning old white-haired women who’ve never used them loose with guns.

What if an old white-haired woman goes to bed one night, puts her gun on the night table beside her bed, snoozes off and is awakened by the sound of her back door opening and footsteps coming down the hall. What if, like me, she’s probably left her glasses in their mostly habitual place on the counter in her kitchen? What if she knows that they may not really be there because she often leaves them somewhere else that she can’t remember — like maybe beside the chair in the living room where she’s been reading on her Kindle?

What if, like me, she has macular degeneration, and hasn’t bothered to get the glasses changed recently although they’re no longer as effective as they were last year? After all, she isn’t driving anymore, and replacing them didn’t seem like an emergency.

Her husband, 84 years old, is very hard of hearing like mine, and has gone to bed across the hall and left his hearing aids in the bathroom — and if she calls loudly for him, he may bumble out of his door and get shot (by her) instead of the intruder, who may or may not be armed.

It’s a nightmare; no pun intended.

(I shouldn’t have used that last line, because this really isn’t funny, and it could happen in our household.)

Suppose this old lady decides to pack her gun in her purse when she goes walking in the neighborhood, shopping at a strip mall, wheeling her buggy around Rouse’s. If she’s like me she couldn’t exactly retrieve it speedily enough to deter an attacker, because I’ve never succeeded in finding my cell phone as fast as it takes to answer a call. So I’d just advise being ready to hit the deck while shopping, but I’d probably break a hip if I did, and let’s hope it never comes to that.

So, it’s my opinion that the most senior of we women should remain unarmed, get ourselves some big, bad dogs, purchase house alarm systems (purveyors of those call my landline at least once a week), or move into secure retirement facilities, even in with the kids if they’ll have us.

While I obviously don’t agree with the Home Defense Foundation’s “call to arms,” even those nearly doddering would agree that, yes, we folks in New Orleans have a problem. But we’ve got to find more reasonable and safer solutions for everybody. Let’s insist that our mayor and city council find them.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]