Monday, December 18, 2017

Self defense and responsible gun ownership for a nurse amputee

Carolyn McKinzie, LPN

It’s been a little more than 16 years since I lost my right lower leg following a car accident.  I didn’t lose it right away. I went through numerous surgeries over the next 2 years. Sadly, it never healed solid the way I had hoped.  I was 32 when I was injured and 35 when I had my leg amputated.  Fortunately for me, I’ve always been fairly independent so I’ve done very well over the years in keeping and maintaining a home by myself.

I’ve been able to work part-time, off and on at various jobs in health care.  My primary role has been that of an LPN, but after my accident I soon learned that working full time in an LPN job wouldn’t be a realistic goal.  I did great with my prosthesis, but I  wasn’t able to work a full shift on my feet. I had some jobs that were great and some I failed at miserably---but I continue to try to do the work I love!

I’ve been single for a lot of years and grown accustomed to dealing with things alone, but recently I started thinking about my own personal safety and how I would protect myself in a dangerous, life-threatening situation.  

It didn’t just come into my head out of the blue.

I moved into a small house in the country, located on a dead-end road.  There were neighbors across the road but at such a distance I could barely see them moving around outside.  The next closest house was hidden by a line of thick pine trees.  I loved the privacy and the quiet area and felt lucky to have come across such a great rental opportunity. Initially, the landlord was very kind, but not long after I moved in he did something that I really took offense to.  He was so proud of himself when he told me that he had touched base with 3 of the nearest neighbors and let them know there was a single, disabled woman renting his house.

I was instantly and totally angry at him.  I told him the last thing I needed was for word to get around that there was a helpless female living there and I didn’t appreciate him setting me up for a bad situation that could potentially be a detriment to my own personal safety and well-being.  I was very unnerved that he had spewed my story to people I didn’t even know. 

I don’t think I ever considered my vulnerability as a disabled woman until that day.  I didn’t like the feeling at all.

After that, I found myself being spooked by every little sound I heard after getting into bed at night.  I sleep with my prosthetic leg off and I’m medicated so I don’t have phantom pain in my sleep.  I felt like a sitting duck and knew if there was to ever be a home invasion, burglary or other intrusive scenario I would be helpless to protect myself and at the mercy of whomever might strike in the darkness.

When I was a kid, my dad and brother hunted and had guns that were kept in a locked gun cabinet.  I didn’t really have an interest in firearms, I think primarily because that was a “guy thing” when I was growing up in the 70’s. 

Fortunately for me, I have a friend who was in the military and has a concealed carry permit.  He carries his gun everywhere it is allowed but mainly has it for home protection.  He encouraged me to arm myself, but I knew nothing about guns and felt I would be a bigger danger to myself than to anyone else.  My friend took it upon himself to educate me about handguns, signed me up for a gun safety class and helped me to buy a 9mm handgun.

I completed the NRA endorsed safety class in a day. I was very nervous about actually shooting the gun because I had no idea how much kick there would be and/or if it would be enough to make me lose my balance and fall.  At the end of the class, we went out to the shooting range and fired a dozen shots at various targets. Thankfully, the kick from shooting wasn’t nearly as strong as I feared it might be so I never lost my balance. I hit bullseyes from 30 feet. I give credit for that to the red dot laser that came on my gun when I bought it.  I hope I will never need to fire at a person that far away; I got it for self-protection at night when I am least able to defend myself.

When I got my certificate in my hand, I realized what a huge step I had taken……it made me feel safe and empowered.  I didn’t feel like the sitting duck as I had before.  

I think single women always have some amount of worry when living alone, as far as having to possibly deal with an intruder in their home.  But when you have a physical impairment, the worry is even greater.  Just being ready was a victory for me!

I’m very fortunate to live in Maine where the overall crime rate is low in comparison to other states in New England.  But drug use here is high and many drug users will do anything they can to obtain drugs, money or property to sell for cash.  This includes home invasions.  In a 2015 report published on the Disabled World website (, it states the disabled and elderly people are the easiest targets for victimizing, since they are often unable to retreat from any type of “attack”.  A firearm is the best defense, provided the user has been properly trained and is proficient with its use.  Otherwise, there is a significant chance of their gun being used AGAINST them.

Gun ownership may not be the best option for everyone with a disability, but self-defense training is important for all. For information on safety training for individuals with disabilities and persons needing adaptive shooting solutions, visit the NRA’s Adaptive Shooting Program website at Self defense classes are also offered by colleges, police departments, nonprofit organizations, martial arts businesses and local municipalities.

Carolyn McKinzie, the Amputee Nurse Consultant, can be reached at: or