I started fighting for students’ rights to carry concealed weapons for selfish reasons: I wanted to be able to protect myself. But I quickly found a network of women who felt the same way I did, and we began to advocate for our safety together. I eventually became the Southwest director of Students for Concealed Carry, and am now the founder of the self-defense nonprofit Empowered, which will open its first chapter this fall, at the University of North Texas. (I have also appeared in ads for the National Rifle Association, but I am not employed by the organization.)

When I started advocating for concealed carry on campus, I was not a “gun enthusiast” or a member of any Second Amendment organizations. I had only recently been taught to shoot by a concerned local firearms instructor who had heard about a scare I had with a cyberstalker.

But from the minute I put my hands around a Ruger LC9 pistol, the gun I regularly carry with me now, I felt more in control. I felt empowered to be holding a tool that could protect me physically, and I was determined to learn how to use it responsibly. It was a relief to know that I could shoot if I had to, even though I would never use my gun unless it was a last means of self-defense. I got my concealed carry license a year ago.