I’m going to throw something out there that will make sense to some, cause some to pause, and totally upset others. I don’t intend this as a rant or an attempt to bring anyone over to my way of thinking. My only intention is to offer up a methodology that I had success with in my own family, and some examples of failure I have witnessed. Here it is:
Stop hiding guns in your home from your kids. What!?!?
I know, you heard it to. Heads exploding in San Francisco and New York.
Some of you who have read my earlier blogs or know me in the real world are probably just as shocked. You know me as the guy who preaches gun safety in my writing, or the guy who gives the NRA Range Safety briefing to my friends before we go shooting in the woods.
No, I have not lost my mind. I’ve given you the shock, now allow me to explain myself and hopefully you will fill in the awe.
Some background is necessary to qualify what I’m about to tell you. I come from a family who owned guns. My parents had guns, my aunts and uncles had guns, my grandparents had guns. The same goes for my friends’ families. I grew up with all these gun owners and never once saw a gun until I was about 10 years-old.
I was first exposed to firearms through the games all little boys played in my day. Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, Secret Agent and the like. Of course these were make-believe guns or cheap toys from the local store. Nothing like today’s airsoft or paintball blasters. I didn’t have Xbox and PlayStation teaching me how to be tacticool. I ran around shouting, ”BANG!” and watching my friends fall over “Dead”.
I was later exposed to firearms in a whole different way. One day while home alone with my brother, we were engaged in what all little boys do within seconds of boredom setting in…we went exploring. We went into the attic, we went into the basement and we went into my parents’ bedroom. All places that were forbidden to us under normal circumstances. While in my parents’ bedroom, we opened the dresser drawer way up high, the ones we knew hid stuff other than tee-shirt and socks. Inside we found the jackpot, at least to two bored boys. There, inside, were a revolver and a semiautomatic pistol. Both loaded, both so real and cool we had to touch them… and we did.
Neither of us had the slightest clue as to what all the buttons and levers did, but we meant to find out. Luckily we both knew what end the bullet came out and neither of us was strong enough to pull the triggers anyway. We both survived the experience and my parents never knew how close they were to almost losing a son. This wouldn’t be the last time for that, but that’s another story, or two.
Fast forwarding to my 20’s, my first instruction in firearms came from the California Highway Patrol. Their range masters are second to none in handgun instruction for law enforcement and I soaked it all in. Not only did I learn which end the bullet came out, I qualified expert in combat pistol. I went on to work in law enforcement for several years and later in private military contracting. I have owned and carried guns daily most of my adult life.
While working in law enforcement I had occasion to interview and in some cases interrogate people from all walks of life regarding their storage of firearms in the home and how they explained firearms to their children. Some told me their kids knew nothing about the guns, some told me their kids “would NEVER touch their guns” even though they were left at eye level in closets and under beds, and some told me they regularly shoot with their kids.
I fell into the last category. I knew from experience that guns to children are all too often kept hidden and therefore pose a mystery. Little boys and even little girls love mysteries. The taboo presented by some society members makes these mysteries irresistible to youth today who watch someone in a video game get shot to death and stand right back up once the match resets, the timer runs out, or whatever. Adults know that is not the case in the real world.
In my 30’s we decided to have our 4th and final child. After three awesome girls (who wanted little to nothing to do with guns) God granted us a son.
My wife and I soon found that boys are wired differently than girls. This became apparent when around age 4 everything my son touched somehow became a gun. Sticks, Legos, even the cheese on his cheese burgers. Score one for creativity.
We discussed how to approach the issue of firearms in the home once my son was old enough to climb. Remembering the follies of my youth, I proposed what my wife would have told you was the most ludicrous idea of my adult life. I said, “Let’s teach him to shoot.” I think she said, “But he’s only four.” Then I explained the my rational.
If you hide something from a boy he just wants to find it that much more. Alternatively, if you teach him the capabilities of a firearm, to respect and handle it safely, then you remove the taboo and the mystery. You replace it with healthy fear and understanding. Introducing children to guns in a controlled environment early in life teaches them the difference between the real firearm and the toy replica. They learn the respect and safety rules that I believe would have prevented so many tragedies. I was determined to not let my son become a news story or political talking point.
We started out with a Red Rider BB gun from Wal-Mart. What a fourth birthday present. He was beside himself. It came wrapped with safety glasses, least we hear one more A Christmas Carol joke. We went into the backyard where I taught him safety just as I had learned it with the CHP and the NRA. I taught him sight-picture and sight-alignment, how the gun operates and all the other things that go along with basic marksmanship. After an hour of shooting soda cans, we put the gun away. We went in the house and over a couple of juice boxes, discussed what he had learned. We talked about what to do if he came across a firearm in our home and what to do if he found a firearm in one of his friend’s home. We discussed when he was allowed to use his BB gun and who was OK to supervise the shooting.
He soon graduated from the BB gun to my grandfather’s .22 pump-action rifle. The gun was bigger than him by half and he needed a rest to shoot it accurately. Then it was onto handguns. He mastered my wife’s .25 auto pistol and had even put a few rounds through my .45 ACP all while being supervised and taught. He’s eight years-old now and could recite the NRA rules of gun safety in his sleep.
Through all this I believe he has a respect for what a real firearm can do and an understanding that there is no reset button once he pulls the trigger. He has never once disappointed me in his handling and use of a firearm.
Should you lock up your firearms when they’re not in use, of course you should. But remember, ours is a gun culture. Though some are hell bent on changing that, it does not change reality. Guns exist here in the United States, if not in your home, then in your neighbors’. If we lock them up and keep them from our kids, without teaching them, we are only inviting their curiosity to get the better of them when we least expect it. Don’t let Xbox and PlayStation be a substitute teacher for your kids on any subject, but especially about firearms. Spend time with and on your sons and daughters. It pays huge dividends for such a minuscule investment of time. Once they understand guns and how to handle them safely then you can let the video game industry teach then to be tacticool.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.