Last year in Israel, I shot an M16. Doing that was a big deal not only because shooting an assault rifle is a big deal, but because I was the kind of mom who wouldn’t buy my children a toy gun.

I was the kid who wore peace sign T-shirts and scribbled the word peace all over my notebooks.

I won’t kill an insect.

But I grew up during a time of relative peace, a time when hippies spewed love and John Lennon sang Imagine.

I didn’t understand until recently that conditions in the world could change, that the harmony I’d experienced my entire life, could vanish.

I believed there would never be another war.

How could there be? Weren’t people smarter? Hadn’t we seen enough destruction in World War II and in Vietnam?

My mother used to tell me stories about the air raid drills she had to participate in during the 50’s when she was a young schoolgirl, and how she was instructed to hide under her desk when an alarm rang in order to shield herself from flying glass. She always emphasized the fear, the uncertainty, she felt. I thought those stories to be antiquated, a thing of the past.

I never had to do anything like that.

But my daughter does. At her school, they practice. Students are prepared for a terrorist attack.

It seems that every day now, in the newspaper and on the news, there is a new story involving guns and death.

For so long, I believed we had to get rid of guns.

But then one day recently, I think it was after the shooting in California, I woke up and decided I wanted to learn to shoot. I was done with my Pollyanna attitude. For the first time in my life, the world seemed like a dangerous place.

It’s not that I want to hurt anyone; but I do feel a pull, a calling, to protect my family and myself.

The day after I left Tel-Aviv, four days after I’d shot an M16, there was a shooting just a ten-minute walk from the hotel we stayed at. A gunman killed two innocent people and injured eight outside a bar in the middle of the day.

He got away.

I don’t know if I could ever really own a gun. But the fact that I, a self-proclaimed flower child, could even think about it is significant.

Times are changing.

People change too.