This week, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel shared the stories of two women with concealed carry permits in the State of Wisconsin. Although they live in distinct neighborhoods — one suburban, one urban — that are separated by 20 miles and vastly different experiences with gun violence.
However, both have made the conscious decision to carry a gun to protect themselves and their families.
Referring to the 300,000+ concealed carry permit holders in the Badger State, the president of Wisconsin Carry Inc., Nik Clark says, “We’ve got all walks of life.”
These two mothers didn’t demand action from others, they took action to protect their safety and and defend their families.
Shamara Austin felt violated when she and her two sons, one just a few months old, came home six years ago to find their condo on Milwaukee’s northwest side had been burglarized.
Someone broke in through the sliding glass patio door and ransacked the unit, flipping over mattresses, stealing televisions and a video game system.
The burglary shook her up and terrified her 7-year-old son, who began having nightmares. Austin had always been afraid of guns, and had no direct experience with them — other than hearing about people hurt or killed in shootings. For the first time in her life, she considered buying one.
Allison Borre, a mother of three, grew up near Whitewater. She remembers the first time her dad took her target shooting during a family trip up north. She was 8.
Borre, who now lives in Pewaukee, was re-introduced to shooting as an adult when a post-divorce suitor took her to a shooting range for their second date. The guy didn’t stick, but her interest in shooting did.
Borre stopped shooting after she graduated from high school. At 19, she became a busy, single mom and didn’t have the time.
She got married, had two children and later divorced. When she eventually began dating again, one of the men she met took her to the Delavan Sportsmen’s Club. They shot rifles and handguns at the outdoor range.
“I really found myself liking it,” she said. “I wanted to get better at it.”
The hobby continued after their breakup, and trips to the range ramped up when Borre and her now-fiancé, a firearms instructor, started dating. Soon she felt at ease, automatically keeping her finger along the barrel of the gun instead of on the trigger. In April 2014, she got her concealed-carry license.
Six months later, on Sweetest Day, Borre’s fiancé gave her a gift: a Ruger SP101 revolver with pink grips.
In Milwaukee, Austin decided to buy a .380 Ruger and to move after the burglary. But thieves struck her new house — taking electronics and her gun — so she moved again.
In the midst of the turmoil, she saw an ad for a concealed-carry class and got her permit in 2013.
She ended up at a modest house on N. 60th St. south of Capitol Drive. By then, she had purchased a .40-caliber slim model from Fleet Farm in Germantown. She kept the gun locked in a box, which she often stored in her car trunk as she worked to remake her rental home into a day care center.
A rash of burglaries swept through the neighborhood. Her house was hit twice. By then, Austin had stopped replacing her TV and her children’s video game systems and was suspicious of everyone, including some relatives.
“Someone invaded your home, your privacy,” she said. “You don’t know if someone’s watching you.”
Austin and Borre made the decision to bring a gun into their homes after wrestling with a fundamental question for any parent: How do you keep your children safe?
Both mothers have had extensive conversations with their children about their decision to own and carry a firearm.
Borre and her children — two sons, ages 18 and 8, and a 4-year-old daughter — moved to Pewaukee about 18 months ago to live with her fiancé and his 14-year-old son. The couple have multiple firearms stored in gun safes in their home. The teens have shot extensively with their parents as a family activity and her younger son has shot a small-caliber gun at the range once, Borre said.
“We do have a pretty extensive family safety plan, like if someone were to break in, this is what we would do,” she said.
Borre says she understands people who aren’t comfortable with firearms. One of them, she says, is her best friend.
For Austin, her focus is on her 13-year-old son and what happens when he goes to another person’s home. Will he see a gun? Will people treat it like a status symbol, something related to “hip-hop, gangster stuff,” as she put it?
“Even though my son knows I have a gun, he knows what it’s for,” she said. “It’s nothing I show off and point around.”
Austin and Borre say their decision comes down to personal safety. Not only was Austin repeatedly a burglary victim, she also hears about carjackings, gas station robberies, car thefts and shootings from her friends and family in Milwaukee whenever she logs onto social media.
Borre, who works in I.T., says she carries her weapon when she’s called in to fix technology problems at her employer’s Waukesha office. Problems can crop up at any time. She also carries the gun while hiking in remote areas of northern Wisconsin. Otherwise, her gun is locked up at home.
“I suppose I do feel safer in the situations that I do carry,” she said.
Borre, now a certified instructor herself, not only thinks about when to carry, but how she would react to a situation that gave her legal cause to draw her gun.
“You can’t pull it unless you think you’re in clear and immediate danger,” she said. “But to pull a trigger, that’s a tough call, I think. Sometimes I think if it was just me, I probably wouldn’t. If it was my children in danger, I would.”
Austin makes her decision to carry on a day-by-day basis. Sometimes, she says, she can’t help but wonder if she’s attracting “negative energy” by carrying a gun.
“Should I just pray and just leave this gun home?” she said. “Is prayer going to save me if something does kick off? Am I going to regret not taking this gun with me?”