My husband and I are shockingly bad parents. A year ago we made the choice to teach our children about the world of firearms, and, in the eyes of some, that qualifies us as candidates for a visit from Child Protective Services. Of course, when we first took our kids to the range, we had no idea we were embarking on an activity that would be controversial and, at times, criticized. We also had no idea it would become such an enriching experience.
My husband is highly trained in shooting skills, so he took both kids under his wing, and in no time at all, they became proficient in the sport and respectful of the gun. As we’ve guided our children into the world of firearms, there have been a few surprises.
The NRA Eddie Eagle program teaches a few basic safety rules, but our kids have learned far more. They have learned to respect the rules, procedures and authority found on a shooting range. No kid wants to be on the receiving end of the range officer’s whistle more than once! Actions always have consequences, safety isn’t an option, and they’re all the wiser for these experiences.
They’ve learned that it takes patience to line up an accurate shot. If a skill is to be mastered, it must be practiced carefully over and over again, and they have both shot hundreds of rounds with their .22 rifles. Once the fun of shooting is over, our kids have learned the importance of keeping their firearm clean and getting it ready for the next outing. This requires responsibility, attention to detail, and planning ahead.
Real life, practical skills are rarely taught in public schools anymore, and it’s up to parents to fill the gap with lessons in fishing, cooking, carpentry and dozens of other important, lifelong skills. Using a firearm for hunting or target shooting falls into this category, and we’ve seen our kids’ self-confidence blossom as they’ve mastered a skill they know is valuable and meaningful. Achieving a high score on a video game may bring a momentary thrill but never that deep satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something that matters.
Our firearm family hobby is just one more reason for us to spend time together doing something we all enjoy. We’ve had lots of laughs, a few tears of frustration, and brought home numerous targets to proudly display on bedroom walls. At a time when too many families find themselves drifting apart, separated by the pursuit of individual interests, a family hobby is key to bringing everyone together. Firearms can provide that shared focus as well as a way to develop important character traits and lifelong skills.
In retrospect, the only shocking result from our family’s venture into the world of firearms has been watching our children develop confidence, patience, responsibility and attention to detail. They’re well on their way toward mastering a useful skill that will serve them well in the future. Are we bad parents for leading them down this path? Hardly! There are few activities that yield such a rich assortment of life lessons as the world of firearms.
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