© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Stories about kids, guns and how to stop the violence. Precious Lives, created by 371 Productions, is a 2-year, 100-part weekly radio series about gun violence and young people in the Milwaukee area. The series applies a public health lens to each story to help listeners understand the full scope of the problem: who are the victims and the shooters; how are the weapons obtained; and what can we change about the environment that contributes to violence in Milwaukee?

#067 Precious Lives: Moms Who Carry Concealed

Emily Forman
Concealed Carry permit holder Kelli Petery has two kids.

Meet two Wisconsin moms who carry concealed guns. Kelli Petery lives in South Milwaukee with her husband and two kids, and has a Springfield SDX9mm. Shamara Austin is a single parent in Milwaukee who has three children, and carries a 380 Ruger.

Their main motivation for carrying is the same: protecting their kids.

Credit Michael Sears | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Shamara Austin, of Milwaukee, has had her concealed ­carry permit since 2013. She sits among her children's toys and other belongings as she packs up to move.

"Right now, I'm just busy with trying to relocate," Austin says. "I moved here after my second break-in off of 57th and Hampton. I've been here three years and the house got broken into three times since I've been here." Her son started having nightmares, and she saw an advertisement on concealed weapons and decided to get a gun.

Growing up, Austin had cousins who had been victims  of gun violence and didn't want to be around guns.

Now, Austin hopes she'll never have to use her gun. "That's why every time I leave the house I decide whether or not I'm going to carry today...," she says. "Should I just pray and leave my gun home? Is prayer going to save me? If something do kick off, am I going to regret not taking this gun with me?"

Kelli Petery says she's never really felt threatened, "but watching the news, seeing everything that's been going on, I mean, that hits home."

Her husband is a contractor and is gone a lot. She says, "I want to defend myself and children if something ever happens... I'm with them alone a lot. I'm a small girl, but let's be honest, if someone attacks me I could probably get a couple of swings in, but I'm small."

"I've been around guns since I was probably three years old," Petery says. "My father and my brother are huge into hunting. My dad has always practiced gun safety with us."

"I would have no problem shooting someone if they were coming to harm me and my family," she says." No problem, whatsoever. I would not feel bad about it."

Petery and Austin have different takes when it comes to letting their kids play with toy guns.

Petery says her kids have a ton of play guns. "There's a little target practice on our dishwasher there that they shoot at. It's a zombie," she says. "We kind of practice with them with their toy guns and they know not to obviously shoot at people. They know not to look into the gun barre, keep your finger outside of the trigger guard, that type of thing."

Austin on the other hand, doesn't buy them. "The other day, [my son] asked me...'Mom can my dad buy me a bb gun? He told me to see what you say about it because he's buying my other brother one.' I said you already knew that answer, right?... Somebody might think you have a gun," she explains.

"My son feels I'm too strict with that because he wants to spend more time at dad's house or whatever," Austin says. "I know that there's a chance that there might be guns in the home. My son actually came and told me that his uncle was carrying a gun, which he's a carrier, but at the same time, [he's] still a street person... Even though my son knows I have a gun, he knows what it's for. I'm not bragging about it. It's nothing that I show and point around... I'm very protective."

You can find resources about safe handling and storage of guns, including how to request a free cable lock here.

Corresponding Content:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - For two moms, different paths — and experiences — led to concealed-carry permits

Related Content