What does it take to turn a peaceful animal lover, gardener and Prius driver into a gun advocate?

Fear.

I won’t be storming the streets demanding rights for gun owners or spreading conspiracy theories that President Barack Obama wants to take everyone’s weapons away. I’m not even considering joining the NRA.

I’ve just come to the realization that the Second Amendment should not be tampered with, and that it’s essential that we retain our right to bear arms.

My feelings intensified, not surprisingly, after the massacre of 26 students and school staff in Newtown, Conn., late last year. I’m an educator, and it terrifies me to think that a crazed gunman could wreak so much evil in a few short minutes. He didn’t even have a motive, as far as we know.

I learned I had a few friends and colleagues who had associations with Newtown. Their feelings were, “If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.”

In the past, such an incident would have turned me against guns. Perhaps, I would have thought, we should be allowed to own only shotguns and rifles for hunting, like in England. Not that I approved of hunting, but it’s far easier to conceal a handgun than a rifle. I believed assault weapons should be banned.

I had no experience with guns, and didn’t personally see a need for them.

When I was a child in suburban Massachusetts, no one in my extended family owned guns. I knew no one who hunted. When my parents, sister and I traveled across the country in a camper, we brought our two dogs and a bowie knife along for protection. I did not grow up in a gun culture.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, however, I’ve thought more about the need to protect myself. No, I don’t want to personally shoot down members of al-Qaida. I’m concerned about the limitations on our liberties that have followed that terrible event. Although I believe strongly in the endurance of our democratic principles, once they begin to erode, they can fall like dominoes.

The threat of terrorism began the process, but the reality of our grim economy could continue it. Many Americans are living on the edge, and it doesn’t take much to push them over.

Thieves swarmed through areas hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, for example. They didn’t just break into businesses. They invaded homes, prompting one resident to put up a sign saying, “Looters will be shot by local vet.”

Climate change is causing such crazy weather it’s just a matter of time before we in Maine get slammed. I don’t want to be a victim if I can help it.

My former pacifist self would recoil at the idea of shootouts, even in self-defense. Now I believe we should take responsibility for ourselves. I think of a scene in the HBO miniseries, “John Adams.” Strangers approach the Adams house in Massachusetts while John is in Philadelphia. Abigail takes a musket that hangs above the door and heads out with it, ready to protect her family. Sometimes, that’s the way it has to be.

Given my natural inclinations, I’d probably be more at home in some quiet Scandinavian country where looting and pillaging Vikings are a distant memory. The American psyche is molded by our violent creation, and the need, for more than a century, to physically ensure our sovereignty.

While watching another miniseries, History’s “Hatfields & McCoys,” I reflected on how the feuding families were killing each other at the same time that my house was being built in the 1870s. Not so long ago, really.

I’m not celebrating those lunatics, by any means. But with our history there’s no point in trying to ban guns. It just won’t happen. It just won’t work.

Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, evidently had mental health issues. He had no problem getting weapons, though, because he just took them from his mother. How in the world could a law possibly stop that?

President Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence includes money to expand mental health services for young people. I applaud that. It also provides funds for school districts to improve and implement emergency plans. Another wonderful idea.

I don’t want to be armed at work, but I would feel safer if our security guards were. I’m serious when we practice our lockdown procedure. I plan on buying a gun to keep in my home, and to get training on how to use it.

The reality, however, is that violence has permeated our world. I can be prepared, but there are no guarantees. That is why, sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes our only hope is to meet a gun with a gun.

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at lsoares@gwi.net.