We took the kids to the shooting range again yesterday, along with a reporter and photographer from the Arizona Republic, and once more I felt so grateful that my kids are confident, yet cautious, around guns. From the beginning, my husband and I wanted our kids to know two very important things about guns.
#1 A gun is no big deal.
Remember the scene in, “The Sixth Sense”, when a boy says to the main character, “Wanna see my dad’s gun?” He turns toward the bedroom and you see a huge gunshot wound in the side of his head. In our home, we don’t want guns to be mysterious forbidden fruit. After all, what is more alluring to a child? Something they’re not allowed to see and touch or something so ordinary that it’s no big deal?
I am not precluding the possibility of either of our children doing something stupid someday while around a firearm, but if they do, it certainly won’t be because they view a gun as something exciting and glamorous. Any parent who thinks their kids don’t watch and plan for an opportune time to do something sneaky behind their backs isn’t living in the same world as me! The last thing I want my kids to do is wait until we are gone from home and then seek out a hidden gun to, “play with.”
So, our kids have been taught how to shoot. Both have shot a thousand rounds or more from their .22 rifles. Daughter is sniper material. Son just loves using his trigger finger and hits the target on occasion and both are happy to leave our firearms alone once we get home. In fact, both have been known to groan and roll their eyes when they see Dad loading up the truck for another trip to the range.
The NRA is a great resource for materials to teach your child gun safety, and their Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program is available to individuals, schools, and groups and priced affordably. Eddie Eagle’s four basic rules for kids to remember if they ever see a gun are:
Leave the area.
Tell an adult!
In addition to training and practice, our guns are kept secured in a safe place away from the kids. We believe in layers of security, and education is just one layer.
The second thing our kids have learned about guns is,
#2 A gun is a huge deal!
A gun can take a life. That’s a huge deal, the biggest, really, and it makes owning a firearm a serious responsibility. Our kids have been taught to never put their finger on the trigger until they are ready to shoot. They know to always keep the barrel of the gun pointed in a safe direction, which is never at another person, and guns remain unloaded until we are actually at the range.
A challenge parents face in this process is helping kids understand the difference between the glorified gunfights they see on TV and in the movies and what a real gun can do to a person. When a person is shot, there is no, “Take two!” The injured person doesn’t pop up so they can appear in the next scene. Gunshot injuries are real, painful, and can cause massive injuries and death.
Sooner or later, most kids will encounter a real, live gun somewhere. The gun may or may not be supervised by an adult. It may or may not be loaded, and my kids may or may not be inclined to use the common sense God gave them. As parents, we increase the chances our kids will do the smart thing and stay safe when there’s a gun around when we train, educate and remind, remind, remind.
The story of how we got into shooting as a family
A few years 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.
What our kids have learned at the gun range
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.