Guns the Right Way: Introducing Kids to Firearm Safety and Shooting (2015)
Children and Firearm Safety
Growing up, I never believed it would happen to me, but it did.
I have become my father. I find myself talking more and more about the good old days and yearning that the circumstances of my youth be available for my children. Due to advances in transportation and, most of all, technology, that will never happen.
When I was young, it was common to allow a youth to take and shoot BB guns, pellet rifles, .22s and even 20-gauges whenever they wanted. All summer long my friends and I roamed our rural neighborhoods with “dangerous” weapons like guns, knives and bows. Nobody ever got hurt, either intentionally or accidentally.
In high school, I regularly had my shotgun in the trunk of my car after hunting for an hour or so before school. That saved a trip home to retrieve it (and waste valuable hunting time) if I planned to hunt again after school. I also carried a Swiss Army knife in my pocket from the time I was seven years old, including to school (and that was often loaned to a teacher who needed to cut something). It never caused trouble, nor was I ever punished for “weapons violations” despite being quite a “little scrapper” growing up.
I was taught from an early age that things like guns and knives were tools that, when used properly, were an essential part of our everyday lives. Just like my baseball bat and the hammer in my Junior Tool Kit, they had a distinct purpose for which they were designed and were NEVER to be used inappropriately. I was taught that not only could that hurt somebody, but it would result in the removal of said tools, most likely for an extended period and with additional, punitive consequences!
I was also a member of the first generation to grow up in the computer age, but computers were certainly not an everyday part of life. The home computer was a simple keyboard with a floppy disk attachment called a Commodore 64, and it was used for only the most basic of games or for typing and doing papers and bookwork.
There was no such thing as the Internet when I was a child, nor would there be for over 20 years. The first home video game, the Atari 2600, was introduced and shortly thereafter it was accompanied by games that involved shooting. They were nothing like the shooting games of today, which are three-dimensional, in first person, and so realistic it’s like you’re standing behind the shooter looking over their shoulder, but shooting nonetheless. (More detail on the benefits and consequences of shooting games, as well as some interesting research, is discussed in Chapter 6.)
I mention this to demonstrate how popular shooting is in our culture. It is an enjoyable pastime and Olympic sport, an integral part of hunting and outdoor lifestyle, and it permeates our daily lives through the media - in the television, movies and video games that our children spend hours with every week.
Shooting can be a fun and safe form of recreation.
This is why it is essential that every child learn at least the basics about firearms.
Our world is still a very dangerous place. In going about their everyday lives, children are exposed to dangers at every turn. Bicycles. Cars. Stoves. Kitchen knives and utensils. Stairs. Swimming pools. Trees. Baseball bats. Hockey sticks. Hairdryers. Curling irons. Doors. Windows, etc.
From a very early age we teach our children not to touch the hot stove. We teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. We teach them that the bat used in their little league game should never be used to swat their friend Johnny when he annoys them.
Why is it that we look at guns in society so differently?
I am of the firm belief that if every child were taught the rules of gun safety in the most basic form, it would have a severe and permanent impact on the incidence of injuries and even violent events that occur in this country every year.
I fondly remember the public-service announcements by Dick Van Dyke when I was a child that talked about the dangers of fire and repeated the mantra “stop, drop and roll.” Why are there not commercials on television today that say when you see a gun to “Stop. Don’t touch. Tell a grownup”? For all the so-called “concerns” of the folks out there who are anti-gun, you would think we would already have something along those lines, and shame on us for not doing it ourselves.
We teach our children not to touch things like stoves and irons. We teach them not to play with matches. If a child lets curiosity get the best of him or her and touches that hot surface, they are very quickly and permanently taught a very valuable lesson. Where is the case that a child touches something hot and dies from it? It really doesn’t happen.
That is not the case with a firearm. One second of curiosity can lead to a lifetime of regret, and that is something no child should have to live with for his or her entire life.
Why should every child learn the basics of firearm safety? For many reasons, but these three in particular:
JUST AS KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, A LACK OF KNOWLEDGE CAN BE DANGEROUS, EVEN DEADLY
Can you imagine taking a child who has had formative experiences playing with harmless reptiles and insects such as garter snakes and crickets, and turning that child loose into a room with cobras and scorpions? (As we discuss later, toy guns can have a similar effect.) We teach our children about the dangers of fire, heat, automobiles, knives, bats, hammers, lakes and rivers, and even crossing the street! Why do we not want the same level of safety taught regarding an object that is found all over the country, numbering in the hundreds of millions?
CHILDREN, BY NATURE, ARE CURIOUS
We all know what curiosity did to the cat… But children’s curiosity is a GOOD thing. It is the basis of how they learn, as well as the drive to continue learning. Ask 100 parents what the number one agitating question their child asks is, and it will be fairly unanimous… WHY? The English Philosopher, John Locke, is quoted as saying, “Curiosity in children is but an appetite for knowledge. The great reason why children abandon themselves wholly to silly pursuits and trifle away their time insipidly is because they find their curiosity balked, and their inquiries neglected.” It is, therefore, our duty as adults, parents and members of society to allow and encourage curiosity in children in order to come to their own conclusions and gain and expand knowledge.
IT IS OUR DUTY TO TEACH THEM, WHETHER WE OWN GUNS OR NOT
As adults and stewards of a safe and common society, it is our duty to prevent the taking of unnecessary risks in the aforementioned quest for knowledge. It is the right thing to do to keep everybody safe. When taught the proper and safe use of firearms, children are exposed to another entire realm of knowledge, recreation, sport and skill. Perhaps most importantly, shooting is a fun and safe form of recreation and sport that can be enjoyed by all children for their entire lives.
It is my hope and wish that this book helps you to do that.