INTRODUCTION … Merissa grew up in anti-gun Connecticut and was raised to be opposed to guns and politics. However, she spent her summers in rural Arizona and Chino Valley, as a child, learning about riding horses and a little bit about the cowboy culture of the Southwest. She moved to Arizona in the year 2000 and has lived here since then. She maintained her hesitation, initially towards guns, well into adulthood. It was her unfortunate experiences as a victim of sexual and domestic violence that changed her mind. Deciding to be a survivor, she took personal responsibility for her safety, taking numerous NRA, and other gun safety and self-defense classes. She is now an ardent Second Amendment supporter and helps other women in domestic violence situations. She is the founder of Strong Communities Foundation of Arizona and describes herself as a pro-constitution, liberty-loving, gun enthusiast. And she’s here to talk to us about how gun rights are victim’s rights. Welcome to the stage, Merissa Hamilton.
Merissa Hamilton: Thank you so much and thank you so much for everyone being out here. She gave you a little bit of my background. I was absolutely raised to be not only anti-gun but afraid of guns. I was also raised to not be patriotic and to have nothing to do with politics. So now that I’m in politics and very pro-gun, I’m totally the opposite. It’s like I’m the rebellious, rebellious one in my family.
The funny thing is that people can be very anti-gun up until the point that they actually have to face violence. And there’s something about having to face violence that completely changes your perception a hundred percent. It doesn’t matter how you were raised, it doesn’t matter whether you were indoctrinated by our public school system. You will have a change of heart when you have to face violence head-on. And that is what I had to experience. I was a churchgoer. I married my husband in the church. We had what I thought was going to be a wonderful relationship. We did pastoral counseling, everything.
And it was about a month into the marriage that I discovered that this wasn’t going to be the dream come true that I wanted it to be. And gradually I started seeing some changes in his behavior, changes in the way he talked to me. He started becoming more about power and control over me rather than letting me be the best me that I could be. And eventually things got worse and he turned violent. And that was a very precarious situation to be in because he was well-loved by our church and so I was afraid to tell anyone about it. And so I went to a counselor at church and try to get some help, and unfortunately, they didn’t understand the nature of violence. And they told me read Power of a Praying Wife. That will change him.
Violence is not changed in such a way. Unfortunately, there are some people that their nature is violence. And they don’t want to change. And even when it was a situation that we’d go to counseling, he wouldn’t really be very truthful. He was just doing the steps to pacify me until I became comfortable again. And then he could become violent again. And that’s the cycle that so many women go through, silently. Not just in this country, but even more so around the world.
And the thing that I had to come to realize was that either I could stay silent and try to hide. Or I could change and I could walk away. And that is what I did. And when you hear women that say, “Well, I called the police…” five or six or seven times, don’t be hard on them. Because leaving a domestic violence situation is extremely difficult, especially if you’re someone that has children. I, fortunately, didn’t have children, but you have to take into consideration your finances, your friends, your family. Some of my family supported me, but other people didn’t. There were some people that I looked up to, they were very close to me, and they were very upset that I got divorced over that situation. And they said, “You should’ve just tried harder.” And I want to be crystal clear. Violent people are violent by nature. It does not change.
And therefore gun rights are human rights. And if you’re someone that’s going to go on stage around the country and try to shame conservatives and Republicans for supporting gun rights, recognize that’s the most important civil liberty we have besides freedom of speech.
I now work at the city council. It’s my privilege to be able to serve all of you as my constituents. And I asked the police, once we saw some of the laws that were coming up, that required for a psych eval in order to be able to keep your gun, if someone puts an allegation against you that you’re dangerous. I wasn’t threatened with a gun, and I generally wasn’t threatened with knives or any other type of weapon. There was only one time I was threatened with a knife. But I had to call the police seven times, and primarily it was over fists. And when I looked at the stats for domestic violence, over 8,000 instances of domestic violence are simply with fists. Only 300, about 338, are with guns. And so when our politicians look for solutions, and they say we need to have something in place to take away our guns, recognize I’m someone that doesn’t want a violent person to have a gun.
Yet I understand that usually the government is used as a weapon against victims. And things like waiting periods, I would have died. I wouldn’t have survived that. Things like a psych eval, that would have been weaponized against me. The threat would have been made against me. And since I was a victim, I’ve may not have passed the psych eval. Because when you’re in a cycle of abuse, it affects you from a mental health perspective. But one of the last times I called the police, a female officer showed up and she said to me, “We show that you’ve called the police six times now. Usually, on the seventh and eighth or ninth time, the woman is killed. So I highly recommend you go and get an order of protection. And get yourself a gun. And learn how to use it.”
And I didn’t listen to her that that time, but the very next time I did. And I was actually stuck, on a trip in Sacramento, and had to figure out how to fly back strategically, without my ex-husband knowing. I went to, got the order of protection and the judge said the same thing to me. He said, “Understand this is a piece of paper. You need to learn how to defend yourself.”
And that is my message to victims of self-defense or sexual assault. Don’t stay a victim. If you need help, reach out to me. There’s so many organizations that will help you. But get out of violence and learn how to defend yourself. I went and took every gun safety class that I could find, and I took other safety, other self-defense classes, too. Because you don’t know if you’re going to have enough time to go and reach for your gun. So you need to know how to use the diversion tactics to get the person away from you so you can safely pull your weapon.
Gun rights are human rights.
And when our politicians go and try to, as well-intentioned as they might be, if they tried to use psych evals or waiting periods, the only people that are impacted by that are victims. Because violent people, they don’t care what weapon that they have at their disposal. They will just hurt you.
So thank you so much for coming out here. Please make sure that you follow AzCDL. They are my go-to, to be able to identify what type of legislation has is up and what I need to advocate for. And then also I’m a member of the Republican Liberty caucus. We will not forsake the Second Amendment.
And then just the last thing, I just want to reinforce. If you know someone that’s in a violent situation, please help them. Don’t judge them. Understand that it is the most terrifying thing to try to flee that type of a situation.
I will always stand firm on the Second Amendment. I will always look to find ways to keep people safe away from violence. But personal responsibility is the most important weapon against violence. Thank you all.