I'm a proud gun-owning Republican because of my feminist beliefs. And I think Bernie Sanders is dangerous

My parents are Democrats, but I realized at college that I was more conservative than them

Antonia Okafor
Colorado
Tuesday 03 March 2020 19:55
Comments
I know that a Democratic Party under Bernie Sanders would feel completely hostile to my beliefs
I know that a Democratic Party under Bernie Sanders would feel completely hostile to my beliefs

I’m a Texas native, born and raised in Dallas. However, my parents are Nigerian immigrants, so I didn’t have the stereotypical Texan upbringing you’re probably imagining.

When I was five years old, my dad went to prison for a drug trafficking crime. In an era where mandatory minimums were king, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He would eventually get out in 18 for good behavior.

Most of my early life was spent with three younger siblings, a single immigrant mother, grandparents that lived with us, and a deep, dark secret. It was shameful to talk about my dad with Americans, much less the Nigerian community. Because of that, my mother grew more and more isolated from the Iarge Igbo community in Dallas we had once been close to. For me, friends became much more vital, much more accepting and much more familiar than family.

I developed a strong sense of community. And that community didn’t have to look, act or talk like me to help me feel like I belonged. In high school, my close circle of friends spread the gamut of Asian countries: Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani. Because my mother is a registered nurse, she was able to command an income that enabled us to stay in the middle-class area that my dad moved us into prior to imprisonment. Because of her stable position, we didn’t have to suffer the instability of moving from place to place — a fate that many families in a similar situation to us were often subjected to.

My parents were Roman Catholic Democrats and I, for the most part, accepted that political ideology. Ironically enough, that was right up until I went to college. After a series of events, one being my conversion into the Protestant faith, I slowly realized that my conservative beliefs did not match the party I was in at the time. And just as ironically, another big factor in my political conversion was my feminist beliefs.

When I was a child, aged five, I was raped by a family member while we visited them in Nigeria. From that time onward, I was on a quest to gain my power and dignity back. I achieved that by empowering myself and other women to be independent, free and capable.

That line of thinking inevitably led me to the Second Amendment. The movement to protect our Second Amendment rights was smack-dab in the middle of college campus conversation back in 2012, because of the concealed carry on campus legislation that was being hotly debated on the Texas capitol floor.

It made sense to me to advocate for a law that allowed law-abiding, capable, independent women like myself and my fellow peers to take safety into their own hands. Speaking up to about the rights of people to defend themselves is not only a calling but an outright ministry for me. The concealed carry on campus bill passed in 2015 and was implemented in 2016 and 2017. Shortly after, I started an organization that seeks to empower women through the Second Amendment.

All of this led me here to Colorado in 2020. I met the love of my life in 2018, moved to Colorado and married him in 2019. Despite the obvious weather and terrain differences, moving from Texas to Colorado was a pretty seamless one. I recognized right away the same freedom-loving, independent spirit in politics that I found in Texas. And a state that still respected a personal right to defend oneself was a state that I believed could actually empower women.

What I find the most beneficial in Colorado law is that it is not incredibly cost-prohibitive to become a certified firearms instructor. This has allowed me to teach all classes completely free for women in the community looking to get a concealed carry permit or just to get more self-defense training and knowledge in general.

The very first thing I do in each class is to ask every woman to stand up, introduce themselves and say why they are here, what brought them to my class. The introductions alone always take about half an hour. Women stand up and talk about their stories of surviving domestic violence, abuse, or sexual assault. Single mothers stand up and share their stories of realizing that they were the only person between a man or woman intent on doing harm to them and their children. The stories are both inspiring and heartbreaking. And it gives me much joy to sign their certificates and thank them for coming at the end of each class.

Today is Super Tuesday, and both Texas and Colorado are casting their ballots for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. This year is a big change for Texas as it’s the first year where voters no longer have the option to participate in straight-ticket voting. And in Colorado, this is the first time in over two decades that voters get to participate in one of the most influential days of an election year.

Unaffiliated voters have a choice in Colorado to change the dynamic of the Democratic Party today. With Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg’s decision to step down from the campaign, the two viable candidates have narrowed down to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. The fact of the matter is that I saw this split coming years ago. I realized that the party was inevitably turning into a place more for Bernie and less for Biden, and I knew my pro-life, pro-gun beliefs would soon be seen as hostile in a less inclusive Democratic Party.

The women I work within the community have extremely diverse political and ideological beliefs. But one thing I see is very clear. To those women, their right to own and carry a firearm of their choice has nothing to do with Democrats, Republicans, Bernie vs. Biden, or Donald Trump. It has to do with their individual liberty to decide to never to be a victim again. Just like my own political journey that has spanned from Democrat to Republican to whatever I choose to be in the future, I can, as a fellow survivor and an overcomer, fully support that.

Antonia Okafor is a Fellow for the Falkirk Center at Liberty University

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