It’s a familiar, if unwelcome, weight on my hip. And it’s cold as hell against my skin, no matter that the holster’s supposed to keep that from happening. The new holster, I should call it; I’m still trying to find one that fits both me and the gun.

I say “on my hip” because that’s how the books like to say it, but it’s not really on my hip. It’s in the small of my back, a little on the left, and the dude says that’s not the place to keep it, there where it’s a little bit cross-draw, but he doesn’t have a better suggestion. Not having hips, he can keep his on the right, against the swell of his iliac crest. I have to utilize the parabola of my lumbar curve.

My clothes fit tighter than his, too, and the whole point of concealed carry is, well, concealment. I start looking around for a loose shirt that’s still fitted enough not to tangle my arm if I have to draw.

The first time I shot a gun, I was small enough and young enough that the recoil from the rifle knocked me back, past my dad’s bracing arm and over his knee where I lay on the ground coughing and staring at the desert sky. It wasn’t fun.

The first time I shot a handgun, I was with a group of friends. We’d gone through the parts of the gun sitting on their living room floor, me paying careful studious attention like the day we did “parts of a horse” in 4-H. Fetlock, withers, poll, trigger, magazine. Soft eyes, soft hands; that part is the same. I picked the gun up and checked the chamber like they’d shown me, muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Empty mag, empty chamber. It felt heavy anyway. A semi-automatic handgun exists for no other purpose than to kill a human being.

“I thought you hated guns,” one of those same friends commented on my Facebook wall, years later, when I posted a picture jokingly titled the Gun Fairy visited me last night. “Revolvers are ok,” I replied. I do would have been closer to the truth.

I own, personally, four guns. Two for hunting, and two for killing people.

One of those guns, a 5-shot .357 Magnum, fits – more or less – in the curve of my spine. It’s heavy. It pulls at my belt and my jeans, and the dude says I should really just get a little 9mm semi. If I need more than five bullets, I’m in trouble a gun won’t get me out of, I tell him. I hate my gun. I hate the weight of it. I hate how it’s cold against my spine. I hate how when I put it in my “carry purse” all I can think of is how long it would take to get the purse unzipped and my hand on my gun if there were an actual emergency.

I hate that it doesn’t make me feel safer.

That’s the argument, right? That a gun makes you feel safer? That’s bullshit. It makes you more alert, the dude says, years of combat experience making his words heavy like the gun on my hip.

It makes you paranoid.

The whole purpose of carrying a gun with you, according to every actual combat veteran and LEO I know, is that it makes you hyperaware of threats, hyperaware of your surroundings, and vaguely paranoid that you might have to use it. And there are times I need to be hyperaware. I’m a woman with opinions on the internet and I run alone at night. These are things that significantly increase my chances of being murdered.

But the gun doesn’t make me safer because I might shoot someone with it. It makes me safer because I’m hypervigilant and more likely to spot someone who means me harm before they actually do anything about that. I’m not a combat veteran. I have no idea if I will react appropriately in a high-stress high-stakes situation. I fantasize that I will. The odds are, I won’t.

It takes years of training to assess a situation. To see past your target to the potential collateral damage if you miss. To start thinking of human lives as collateral damage. Field of fire, safe directions, center of mass.

The fact of the matter is, once the guns come out, there is no good guy with a gun. There’s only two guys with guns firing into the same crowd of people.

I start leaving the gun at home. I start running with my dog.