My cousin brought a gun to Thanksgiving dinner.

OK—he’s a cousin by marriage, but here’s what happened: he has a small pistol that he keeps in his pocket at all times. This is legal; he has a concealed carry license. We were all sitting around chatting after dinner, enjoying the post-meal lull, when he pulled it out and showed it to my brother. The idea here, I guess, is self-defense. After all, suburbia is a dangerous place for white, straight, tall men.

His wife, my cousin by blood, wants to get a gun too. Again, the idea is self-defense, but now it makes a little more sense. She’s a woman and sells real estate in the south, so she often goes to unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people by herself. This is a quasi-feminist rationale for gun ownership, and I almost get it. Almost.

My dad has a gun. It’s a 22-caliber pistol that he inherited from his father. It slumbers, useless in the basement, and the bullets are locked away upstairs. He has used it before, though, and so have I.

Last winter I went to a gun show in Kentucky, where I grew up, with my dad and a family friend.

The gun show sprawled through the convention center, and I wandered from booth to booth picking up the guns and weighing them in my hand. They had a satisfying heft. More often than not, the proprietor of the booth would address me, “Hey there, I’ve got something I think you’ll like, look over here.” He (the sellers, like the buyers, skewed heavily male) would gesture to the far end of his stand at two or three “girl guns.” Functionally, they were the same as the black and silver ones I was trying, but they were painted pink or leopard print. A few were bedazzled. You know, the way that women are.

“The only thing that can make a woman as strong as a man,” read a t-shirt on display, “is a gun.”

Can gun ownership be feminist? Guns grant women the same power to kill as they do men. They equalize our capacity for destruction.

Since the sexual assault on November 10 and the incident on Potter Street on November 17, women on campus have felt less safe. Consequentially, we are taking measures to make ourselves more powerful. We are taking self-defense classes and avoiding walking alone at night. I thought about buying pepper spray. I’ve begun to make my nightly trek from the library to my house clutching my keys between my fingers, brass knuckle style.

What is the endpoint of this logic? Armed self-defense. Guns. If it is my responsibility to keep myself safe, I will do it as well as I can. There is an organization built around the idea that women should have guns for self-defense called The Women’s Gun Zone.

But that logic is rotten to the core, and we have proof of it almost every day. The more people who own guns, women or not, the more people die by guns. Two weeks ago a gunman killed three people in a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and shooters killed fourteen people and injured twenty-one in San Bernardino, California. I saw a Washington Post article on mass shootings a dozen times. Everywhere I read news was abuzz with condemnations and despair, again.

We are heartbroken and weary, but not shocked. Tragic murder by gun is not anomalous in the United States. How could anybody argue that now? It is built into the gun-loving system.

I have seen guns, I have touched them, I have fired them. Many people I love own guns. Many women I know own guns. This is my dream for the guns in the United States:

I want to take them all away. I want to knock on the door of every gun owning home in America, including those of my family and friends, and confiscate their firearms.

We will toss them all in a big pile. We will set it on fire.

I want us all to hold hands around this massive flaming pit and chant: No more guns. No more guns. No more guns.

This is unconstitutional, Julia, you say. This is too simple. You can’t do this.

You’re right. I’m telling you my fantasy, not my policy proposal.

If my choice is between unfettered government tyranny and rampant, toxic murder, give me tyranny. But that’s not a real option. Here are some real options: end gun shows, require gun licensing akin to driver’s licensing, undertake more thorough background checks, ban the sale of assault weapons, and extend the 24-hour waiting period and make it universal.

Although the world is doubtless an unsafe place for women, I do not buy the “feminist” spin on gun ownership: that it is the strongest, best form of self-defense. The culture that tells women to defend ourselves with guns is the same culture that gives rise to mass shootings.