Guns the Right Way: Introducing Kids to Firearm Safety and Shooting (2015)
Teens and Guns
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” -Socrates
Though we as parents and teachers would like to believe we are the first to deal with teenagers and their associated “-isms” and issues, it would appear that not a lot has changed regarding the teenage attitude over the past 2500 or so years.
They are pushed up between childhood and adulthood over a five- or six-year period where they, for the most part, are adult in size and stature yet retain youthful levels of maturity.
It used to be relatively uncommon that introduction to firearms began in the teen years. However, as the incidence of single parent and divided households has grown, there has been a decided increase in the number of teens having their first experience with guns in junior high and high school.
Teens have a lot going on, but there is usually a division between “serious” teens and those who have not yet reached a mature level when it comes to things like guns.
In addition, the prevalence of the Scholastic Clay Target Program gives many teens who have not had the opportunity to experience shooting or shooting sports at home an introduction through friends and high school coaches.
It has been my observation that most teens’ desire to experience firearms and shooting is driven by the teen independent of, but not necessarily without, the support of their parents. There are several types of teens that I have found to most often seek firearms exposure and instruction.
1. The mature teen. These teens have most likely sought out exposure and experience on their own, and for many different reasons. Perhaps they have previously been busy with other sports and athletics. Most likely, they will come because of an innate curiosity about guns and their use.
Many teens with little to no experience want to learn guns for the “cool factor.”
2. The young teen with no mentors. This is usually a child who has some type of connection to firearms, but is once-removed. Perhaps they have a close friend that hunts and shoots. Maybe they have a desire to try one of the relatively new Scholastic Shooting programs and not feel inadequate. Even though these programs are very well run and I have never heard of anything but the most accepting of attitudes and opinions, peer pressure is a big deal with teens. In this case, they may seek out knowledge so that they seem “firearm smart” when with their friends.
3. The active gamer. The prevalence of the first-person shooter games and their vast social followings has given both a good and bad introduction of firearms to teens. Yes, it is somewhat refreshing for a child to know the difference between a rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun, but the method of introduction is what concerns me.
More and more of our children are playing these games for a greater and greater amount of time. I am simply not comfortable with the idea of an increasingly realistic-looking firearm and sight picture pointed at and actually shooting and killing people - albeit virtually - being not simply encouraged, but exalted by such a peer group-dominated activity. (More on video games and their effects in Chapter 6.)
Additionally, I find these active gamers tend to come for two reasons: curiosity and cool factor.
Teens in the “cool factor” camp need to be monitored a bit more carefully and, certainly, if I hear discussion about things like “damage” or “blow people away,” my hackles rise a bit.
Regardless of your opinion about games, you need to make certain that a teen is properly introduced to respect for firearms, the safe handling of firearms, and can recite the four cardinal rules of firearm safety before you ever allow them to handle a loaded weapon.
There is good news regarding this group of teens: You can keep them engaged and riveted throughout your introductory lessons by showing them an AR-style firearm (even if it’s a .22-caliber) with the promise of shooting it as soon as they pass the beginning lessons.
UNIQUE ASPECTS OF TEENS
According to a recent, random survey of over 6400 teens nationwide by StageOfLife.com, our teenagers deal with a multitude of issues, but there are several that clearly stand out.
The top three things that gave teens the most difficulty this past school year (along with the percentage of teens citing that issue as the biggest problem) were:
· School-related issues (bullying, teachers, homework, graduation): 27%
· Self image: 20%
· Parents: 16%
Other categories such as friends, drugs and alcohol, siblings, boy/girlfriends, etc. fell further down the list, but can have a distinct and profound effect on your introduction of a teen to firearms. (From http://www.stageoflife.com/Teen_Challenges.aspx)
How will this affect your introduction of a teen to firearms? In several ways.
Distractions are never a good thing when teaching firearms, and all of these issues fall into that category. School pressure, peer pressure, parent pressure, boyfriend/girlfriend pressure can cause a teen to zone out when they should be listening to instructions.
This should always be at the forefront of your mind, as it is your job to maintain focus and interest such that your students are able to not only observe, but to retain and repeat what you are teaching.
This brings up another excellent point…
CELL PHONES AND FIREARMS
Most schools prohibit the use of cellular phones while class is in session. Some even require that personal phones be “checked in” when class starts and “checked out” at the end of class.
They do this because today’s smart phones are able to find answers in seconds rather than requiring the proper study and thought. The teachers want to make certain that the students maintain the proper focus in class, learn the materials and retain the knowledge that participation allows.
When introducing a youth to firearms, these reasons are also very important.
There is one difference between the school classroom and your firearms classroom.
Not paying attention in English or History can be cause for embarrassment if called upon and the student does not know the answer.
In our classroom, a lack of proper knowledge can mean that somebody dies.
Keep the phones off and put away until after your teaching and shooting session is over.