Children and Firearms - what is appropriate?

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These were posted on the meme thread - and were meant to be funny. Some thought they were funny while others didn’t think they were funny - and I’m OK with that. I think this is a great launching point for a discussion on what is or isn’t appropriate for children and firearms.

These were initially posted to be funny and in no way were suggesting this is how children should handle firearms. Harassment of those with varying opinions are not welcome. We’re all going to have different opinions. This topic is for the discussion of the whys of our opinions.

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Yeah, so I’ll go, since I posted the first one. sorry about how long this is going to be…

Let me put some context to that… my sister sent it to me with this: “I think this might be you…” She could be right, if you dropped my current brain into a 6-year-old’s body. That girl’s enthusiasm and spirit seem just about right to me… the joy of discovery is a powerful thing even now.

Let me put some more context to it… that would never have been me when I was actually 6. By the time I was 6 I knew enough to be sure I was only supposed to have barbies and a play kitchen with pots and pans and an oven, and never guns or trucks or an erector set. My brothers had trucks. And guns. And I got barbies, if I wanted them or not. What I wanted was what my brothers got.

By 6, I knew that even the discussion of guns by my dad was going to get full on hysteria by my mom. My dad was a Korean War sniper, a military advisor to the king of Thailand during Vietnam, and chief of ballistics at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Left to his own choices, he would have taught me to shoot (responsibly and safely), and started me on being who I became anyway. With my mom in full flood at the mention of it, that was never going to happen.

So here in that photo is a child - a girl child - in what looks to me to be a fit of wonder. It’s not the full-on grin of someone going full auto (like some of us would certainly have) nor the evil grin of someone opening up on a crowd at the mall. It’s enthusiasm… discovery… and perhaps a bit too much sugar.

One concern that came up is … where is the parental supervision? Because a parent isn’t crouched next to her doesn’t mean it’s absent. Could be the man in the photo. Could be the person behind the camera. It’s a gun show, so she didn’t wander in there from the playground… chances are pretty good she’s not unsupervised.

Another concern is that firearms should never be treated like toys. I wonder how many of us had toy guns growing up? My brothers did. Most men I know did. A few women I know did. The first gun I ever made was a repeating rubber-band rifle I made from a broomstick for one of my nephews. My great granddaughter has a rubberband pistol. I had a dart gun and some squirt guns.

Having toy guns didn’t ruin our ability to tell the difference between what’s play and what’s serious. That’s a lesson we learned on lots of fronts - from firearms to tools to cars. It has to be taught, but nothing in the photo tells me that’s NOT being done there.

One place I grew up, there was a cannon mounted in the park. One of the few pictures I have with my dad where he’s smiling is with the whole pack of us kids crawling all over that cannon. I wonder if folks would that inconsistent with the message of teaching kids gun-safety… us laying all over it and grinning like monkeys.

Personally, I find the idea that teaching kids gun-safety has to be all seriousness business to be wrong-headed. I’ve seen some commentary (not too much here) that seems to demand that Gun Safety is Serious Stuff and must be Sternly Instructed. OF COURSE it’s serious stuff. But learning is often joyful and the two are not incompatible.

I also find the idea that firearms and kids don’t mix to be a bit off the mark. OF COURSE unsupervised kids and loaded firearms is a risky situation. My mother’s take on that ensured that growing up I was taught to fear even the idea of firearms… and that took me into my early 40’s to overcome. It left me set up for victimhood, which made me less safe, not more, and was probably not what my mother had intended.

Like any chemical reaction, the mixing of kids and firearms should be done with care, appropriate planning, and prudent instruction. And by “prudent” I don’t mean stern, serious, scowling, scary stuff. I mean structured discovery and exploration, age appropriate messaging and context, and guided learning within the matrix of understanding consequences, building confidence, safety always, and the joy of learning and accomplishment.

My great granddaughter is 6 - and we are a firearms family. She’s learning what I never had the chance to growing up. Firearms are normal. Touching a firearm requires an adult (even our plastic blue guns). Rubber band pistols are not real firearms. Bullets make serious holes in things. If anyone is shooting, her ear and eye protection has to be on, even if she’s down in the goat yard. If her mom and gramps are shooting, we don’t walk across the center of the pasture because it’s on the back side of the berm. That a firearm is what we use to put livestock down when it’s been injured and can’t be helped. That her mom and I and gramps carry firearms just in case of bad guys.

She hasn’t shown any interest in shooting anything except the rubberband pistol, but when she does, and she can do the 4 safety rules by heart, there will be a pink BB gun and we’ll start with that. She has shown an interest in how guns come apart and will sit with me for half an hour wielding a q-tip in the slide grooves of my glock slide while we discuss how guns work or which direction the bore snake goes or what the baby cows were doing in the pen. Sometimes she gets excited about things like how clean the q-tip is when she’s done and that look of joyful discovery breaks out all over her face.

So I’m just going with kids and firearms do mix, if carefully done, and while a real firearm shouldn’t be treated as a toy, even very serious subjects can be learned and explored with joy. JMO.

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Like so many of the posts here there is no cut and dry answer. It depends on a lot of things. For all we know the parents staged the photos. While the one at the gun show I would assume is a real weapon the one on the ground could be a mockup for a parade for all we know. I know there is no ammunition in the one at the gun show and as for the one on the tripod I see no belted ammo in the picture.

Now as far as children handling firearms, again there are many factors to take into consideration. Unless we know the parents we do not know how much instruction they may already have had (not referring to these pictures any more but in general).

If I gave a firearm to one of my children (regardless of their age) I would not let them touch it if they did not already know how to handle it safety. Would I feel the same way if it was someone elses child that I didn’t know, I dont know but most likely and I would ask the parent(s) how much experience the child has (for me child = under 18 years old) with firearms.

In todays politically correct world all to often I see people jump to admonish because it does not fit in their framework of how things ought to be. Honestly it is my opinion the world of political correctness is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

And lastly if we as well trained safety conscious law abiding gun owners see something we dont like (I did not say unsafe) instead of getting upset we should be trying to turn it around into a positive teaching moment and making the experience a good one for all involved.

Corporal punishment lasts until the pain goes away but words can scare or make things wonderful for life.

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I think it is interesting that the top photo with the man and the little girl relates very well to this conversation. I am pretty sure that the man in the photo is Ryan Gresham (President of Gun Talk Media, son of Tom Gresham, and grandson of Grits Gresham). If there was ever anyone who knows about growing up around guns and shooting it has to be Ryan. Ryan clearly has no concerns for the safety of the girl in the photo, and from what I have seen of his work he is a responsible person . I saw the humor in the photos, and the kids appear to be enjoying themselves. I don’t see any difference between those photos and photos of little kids sitting behind the wheel of farm tractors, or behind the controls of a locomotive engine (kids love to pull the cord/handle on the locomotive whistle). Anyone viewing the photos knows the kids are not operating tractors, train engines, or the firearms in the photo. I trust the parents judgement to know of the situation their child is being photographed in. Let the kids have some fun.

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I think they’re adorable. I grew up in a rural area where everyone had guns. I had my first Marlin 22 when I was 11 and took the hunter’s safety course at our high school when I was 14.

We were taught to get an adult should we ever find a gun just lying around. When we were old enough, we were taught how to check to see if they were loaded. Essentially, we were taught to respect them, not fear them.

We had a shooting club at high school and during hunting season, there were pick up trucks with gun rack and gun in the parking lot of the school, especially during hunting season. Nobody was shooting nobody.

I believe political correctness along with a host of other issues of how children are raised these days are the issue. It has nothing to do with guns. When everyone gets a trophy for simply showing up, when you don’t play team sports where you learn to win and lose with grace, how in the hell does this type of nonsense prepare you for the real world?

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