Because of my upbringing I have a rather unique perspective on guns. We had a young man (15 years old) who was taken in to custody this morning for “Criminaly Negligent Homicide”. His 13 year old friend is dead and to quote the policeman on the local news “they were playing..I hate to use the word playing, but they were just not handling it safely or properly..with the gun”. These children were apparently alone with the gun for no more than a few hours. A few hours…and now one child is dead and other is irrepairably socially, legally, and psychologically scarred. Why? The ultimate answer is because they had stupid parents.
My point with all this is that if you are a parent and you have guns, you really can do both. Children are both creative and inventive. Gun safes, gun locks, etc are not going to stop a child who is determined to play with your gun. You could lock the thing in Fort Knox and if he really wants it, he’ll find a way in. The best thing for parents with guns to do is make the child safe to have around guns. If you have a pool, you teach the kid to swim. Why is this any different?
I come from a long line of gun owners, collectors, traders, sports shooters and military folk. My mother is actually a better shot than my father. Because my father was in the military, we always had guns at our house. When I was still very young, my father taught me to handle guns the “Marine Corp Way”. I was probably the only 8-year old that recite the “My gun is my friend…” litany. All that aside, my father also beleived that if the time came for you to need a weapon you probably weren’t going to have time to stop and load it. For that reason, all of the guns in our house were always loaded. Every rifle, every shotgun, and every handgun were kept loaded at all times – and there were always a lot of them around. Because of this, my father felt the need to make *me* safe to have around guns.
Unlike many children, I was never told that the firearms were “off limits”. Instead, any time I expressed even the slightest interest in one, it was taken out, examined. The first step was that I would have to learn to load and unload it safely. Once that was accomplished, we would go to the shooting range with it and fire it. After were done firing it, we brought it home were I was taught how to strip it, clean it and reassemble it. At that point, it was stored again.
I had no illusions about how powerful firearms were and they were not toys to me even as a small child, in any way, shape, form or fashion. I also did not suffer from what I call “forbidden fruit” syndrome. My parents’ guns were just more things in our house and since there was no mystery attached to them, they were not objects of great interest to me at all. They were roughly as interesting as the end tables in the living room. I knew to keep my friends away from them, though because for reasons I did not understand at the time, they found them incredibly enticing.
By the time I was 9, I had fired every gun in the house at least once, including my father’s 10 gage shotgun. He told me that I needed to fire them so that if I ever had to use one, I would know what to expect from it. I also had my own .22 caliber rifle at that age. After having my mother prepare a pigeon for me for dinner, I quickly decided that shooting at cans was preferable to shoot at live things. “If you kill it, you eat it.” He made sure that I understood gun saftey, fields of fire, etc. He also made sure that knew how to clean and store all of the guns with out any help from either of my parents. For a select few, he made sure that I knew how to field strip them and put them back together.
My father handled it properly and any time my friends expressed an interest in any of the guns in our house, my father put them through the same drill I had gone through – with their parent’s permission. I grew up in a house full of loaded guns. I can tell you we normally had at any given moment between four and eight loaded rifles, at least three loaded shotguns, and a minimum of a dozen loaded hand guns – some revolvers and some semi-automatic. Many of them were my father’s military issued firearms. They were never kept in a gun safe. At the most, they were in my parents’ closet or dressers. Never once, in all the years I spent at home, did we have a single accidental discharge, much less a child killed.