By

Megan D. Lehman

In the debate over Delaware's concealed-carry gun permits, don't forget the difference between men and women.

The average man can physically overpower the average woman; this is a biological fact. The vast majority of violent crimes are committed by men. We women should not have to depend on the men in our lives for protection, nor can we expect police to be in all places at all times.

My ability to have a gun for self-defense is central to my concept of freedom and safety in a hostile world. Anyone who tries to take that right is trying to take the only tool that makes me the physical equal of a man.

I had a right-to-carry permit when I lived in Pennsylvania. It was issued by the county sheriff after I passed a background check. I already had completed a gun safety course at the age of 12, when I began hunting, and I have been involved in numerous National Rifle Association safety programs since then.

I bought a pistol from my father-in-law and carried it when I had to travel alone overnight for work.

When I moved to Delaware, I shelved plans to obtain a permit here. I heard how burdensome, capricious and impenetrable the system was. The advertisement requirement and the essay question are ridiculous and serve no real purpose. It is no one's business why you want a permit. If you meet the law's requirements, you should not be denied because of a government official's bias or whim.

Some people put their heads in the sand and pretend there is no real need in our society for self-defense. Through personal experience and research, I know better. Once you become a victim, you are never the same psychologically.

I was a volunteer counselor at a county women's shelter while I attended college in western Pennsylvania. I watched clients relive the horrors of rape and abuse, stalking and terror. Their waking hours and their dreams were filled with the fear that it would happen again.

When I studied in England, a stranger followed me into my dormitory and stole my purse from my bedroom while I carried groceries to the kitchen. I found the purse and the unwanted contents dumped in a nearby garden. The thief took not just the valuables but personal letters and photos. I barricaded the room each night and kept the light on as I slept fitfully, convinced he had taken an interest in me and would return.

New Castle County provides online crime mapping, linked through its public safety Web page. Viewers can see which crimes happen block by block. Between October and December, there was one robbery, 15 burglaries, 24 thefts and 23 cases of criminal mischief within 10 minutes walking distance of my apartment. There was a murder about a mile from my home. Rapes and assaults are not listed.

Crime could happen to any of us, at any time. The unfortunate truth is that women are physically more vulnerable. If violent men want guns, they can easily obtain them from the black market. I am not threatened in the least by a man who passes a background check and completes a safety course.

Guns are not intrinsically evil or good. The person using a gun imbues such significance.

The right of a rational, responsible, safety-conscious adult to carry a gun offers one way for women to protect themselves against violence. Making permits easier to obtain by law-abiding Delawareans can give us a fighting chance.