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Meet this new gun owner: a single mom in Colorado

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We caught up this week with a busy mother after work. By way of introduction, she told us where she lives in Aurora, Colo.

MISHEIKA GADDIS: I actually have lived over in the Del Mar area for about five years now. It's not the best of neighborhoods, but it's what I call home.

SIMON: Misheika Gaddis is 33 and works in accounts receivable for a chain of doughnut shops. She is a single mother and the new owner of a 9-millimeter pistol. An industry trade group estimates nearly 5 1/2 million Americans bought guns for the first time last year. And Black Americans represent the fastest-growing group of gun owners. To understand what might be driving gun sales, we're going to talk with some new gun owners every now and then. And we begin with Misheika Gaddis.

GADDIS: So there was a couple of nights where I'd come home, and there would be people in the hallway, like, really close to my door. And the way my apartment building is set up is if you don't know anybody up there, you shouldn't be upstairs. There were a couple of nights I felt like I probably needed some protection or probably should have let somebody know I was going in late. But I didn't think about it until there were people standing way too close to my door.

SIMON: I gather you're a new gun owner.

GADDIS: I am. Just recently, about six months ago, I got my first gun.

SIMON: And why?

GADDIS: Really, I got it for the protection of my home. I have a 8-year-old, and it's just the two of us right now. I'm actually pregnant with my second child, and I think for me, I'd want to be able to protect them if need be. I don't have a record. I have no criminal history or anything. So I think the best thing for me is to exercise my Second Amendment rights and be a gun owner.

SIMON: May I know the name of your child?

GADDIS: Adam. This is Adam right here. Say hi.

ADAM: Hi.

SIMON: Adam, nice to meet you, man.

ADAM: Nice to meet you, too.

SIMON: Oh, thank you. I realize we're conversing right in front of your son, but do you worry about an accident happening with that gun in your home?

GADDIS: Yes, especially with small kids. I actually knew a lady. She was getting ready for work and didn't turn her safety off. The gun misfired, and it actually killed her son. When it's at home, it's locked away. My son knows and is aware of it, but he also knows the dangers and how safe we have to be. The clip and the gun are never in the same place at the same time, but they are accessible to me if I need to get to them.

SIMON: Help us understand the worries you have about your security.

GADDIS: I stay pretty close to a high school that actually had a shooting sometime this year. Then there's someone that, like, rides through the neighborhood, and they just let off shots. You can hear gunshots every night.

SIMON: Every night.

GADDIS: Just about every night, I hear gunshots. And sometimes they're closer than others. Sometimes they're in the distance. It's pretty alarming, you know?

SIMON: What's it like to hear gunshots at night and have your little 8-year-old boy close?

GADDIS: It's scary. We have gotten familiar with the sounds of them. At first it was like, was that fireworks, or is it gunshots? Rarely ever fireworks. But I also tell them to move away from the windows and, you know, like, we'll go to sleep early some nights and close the window so we don't hear the commotion outside. It's just a hard time right now, especially explaining it to younger kids, the dangers that we might face through day to day.

SIMON: So you decided to buy a gun. How easy was it for you?

GADDIS: The day that I had got it, we had went to a gun show that was out here in Colorado. They asked for my ID. I had to fill out maybe four or five forms. And then I waited maybe four hours before they came back and said that I was approved. There should probably be more protocol in place, especially if someone is, like, trying to hurt or harm someone. Maybe those are questions that they should ask and what purpose you have for getting the gun. That might be a good question to ask.

SIMON: What would lead you to reach for that gun in your mind?

GADDIS: If someone was actively trying to, like, to kick in the door, or - I have actually a bell that is on the back of my door, so if I heard the bell and wasn't expecting anyone to walk in at that moment, then I would reach for it.

SIMON: And why not just call the police?

GADDIS: Honestly, I've had incidents where I've called them and I don't feel like they got there in enough time. Or - like, even the call with the emergency responders, it's like, well, what's your name? Where are you at? What's your phone number?

SIMON: Yeah.

GADDIS: What's the emergency? It's a long process. So by the time the police get to you, if you get all that information out to them, it'll be too late.

SIMON: I gather you know about deaths up close in your own family experience, don't you?

GADDIS: Yes, I do. My aunt was brutally murdered in her apartment. And there was a knife involved, and she ended up passing away at home. For me personally, I'd rather something that I know is there to be able to protect myself.

SIMON: Oh, I'm very sorry to hear that about your aunt.

GADDIS: Thank you.

SIMON: There are people who will hear our conversation who will be very moved by what you have to say but still wish you hadn't chosen to get a gun and doubt that you've done the right thing. I wonder if you have an answer for that.

GADDIS: Everyone's decisions of their life are based on what they've gone through. I've been through enough hurt and chaos to feel like this is the best decision for myself and my family. Would you rather be the victim of something or the person that came to the defense, you know? So this was the best decision that I could have made.

SIMON: Misheika Gaddis, a mother and now a gun owner in Aurora, Colo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.