Okay, I admit it, I was one of those young mothers who refused to allow anything resembling a gun to wind up in the toy box of her children for fear they would grow up to be serial killers. And if you are one of those moms, don’t feel condemned, because I completely understand. Not having grown up with guns in the house, I had a fear of them and didn’t even want my little boys to pretend to shoot people with them – until the day my twins ate their toast into the shape of guns and engaged in a three year-old highchair shootout.It was on that day I realized there really wasn’t much use in banning the toy weapons because they would use a stick, a rubber band, a toilet plunger, or even food (obviously) in order to carry out some innate need to down the bad guy and emerge victorious in some imaginary war of the worlds.
As time went on, I thought about my grandfather and how his gun rack was always full of guns, with the ammo easily at hand, but how none of us grandchildren dared touch any of it. It was right there in full view and reach, but it never entered our minds to breach that off-limits realm. Of course, being afraid of granddaddy was probably a big part of that (he was really just a big softy, I later discovered), but I think more than that, it was just something we grew up knowing about. And while it was off-limits, it wasn’t something we only saw in movies – the gun rack was just part of the furnishings, something normal, everyday, and expected in a country home – not a big deal, so we just didn’t think much about it.
But what if my granddaddy had taken each of us kids out and taught us to use those guns? For one thing, I would have enjoyed many more years of shooting than I have by learning to use a gun later in life. Of course, some of my cousins had dads who hunted, so they learned to use a gun at home. My dad, however, moved to the city, entered academia, and any thoughts of a gun rack being part of the living room décor would have made my mom’s head spin around.
But I have to say that none of my cousins who shoot have ever killed themselves or anyone else – nor have their children or grandchildren, most of whom also now shoot – and I think one of the keys to that is familiarity. When a child grows up with a healthy respect for, and a good knowledge of firearms, they are less likely to be curious enough to sneak a peek at something that could truly harm themselves or someone else in the process.
I realize some programs teach kids to stay away from a weapon should they accidentally (or purposefully) come upon one, and that is definitely good advice if they are unfamiliar with firearms and/or there is no adult present, but sometimes that only makes the forbidden object more enticing and exciting to get their hands on.
What would happen if we went backward in time just a little and more kids were taught to use a gun properly, respect its abilities, and use it wisely? There are organizations out there today who seek to maintain that heritage of passing our Second Amendment rights on to the next generation, such as the 4-H clubs, Scouts, and groups like the Appleseed Project. These and other groups believe that shooting skills, and the right to engage in them, should not fall by the wayside as fewer people need to use guns to provide food for their tables, but that we should remember our Founding Fathers’ mandate that our citizenry should keep and bear arms.
Passing those skills and abilities to our children would then be as natural as teaching them to properly handle a vehicle. If you have a child old enough to drive, you have most likely made the analogy to them that they are basically sitting on a fueled rocket, reeling at incredible speeds toward some other unsuspecting soul inside their own projectile – forgive me, I’ve had several new drivers, so these thoughts come naturally to me.
But the point is that we don’t hide the cars, or forbid them until the child is of age, and then take them out and present them as something to be feared and revered. Children ride in cars every day – in fact, what parent (probably a dad) hasn’t sat the two year-old in their lap and let them “steer” around the parking lot? Wasn’t dad afraid that little Johnny would then take the car out for a spin and slaughter untold numbers of innocent victims, all because he was “taught” how to use the car before he could understand the power of it? Probably not. Dad and Johnny were just having fun, but Johnny learned that the car was something he was not able to use without dad’s guidance and supervision, and as he grew, he became more knowledgeable and skilled at using the vehicle, until the day he was able to take the wheels out on his own.
So should we go out and buy an arsenal for the baby’s first birthday, just to expose her to the wonderful world of shooting? No, baby blankets and cute little stuffed animals are still more appropriate for that. But how about mom and dad learn to shoot first? How about taking granddad’s rifle out of the attic and going to the range and asking someone to show you how it works? How about signing up for an Appleseed event and taking the whole family to learn how important the rifle was to our American heritage? And how about exposing those kids to firearms in a responsible manner, one in which they will respect the gun and eventually, as they get older, learn to use it in a way that will be fun for them and safe for everyone?
If you have children, or even if you don’t, I encourage you to get in touch with one of the organizations that focus on teaching children and adults to use firearms responsibly. It might just be something the entire family enjoys doing together for many years to come.
Project Appleseed: http://appleseedinfo.org/
4-H Shooting Sports: http://www.4-hshootingsports.org/