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Five Reasons to Teach Your Kid to Shoot
September 12, 2014
I took my first gun safety course when I was eight years old. I've seen 40-year-olds I would never trust to be safe. It's all about the person.
The recent shooting-range tragedy in Arizona brought to the forefront questions of when, or whether, a child should be allowed to shoot a gun. Driving requires a license, the drinking age is 18, said the pundits, yet we allow parents to decide when a child should learn to handle a deadly weapon. Lost in the noise-whirlwind of cable news were subtleties such as age of the child, or the type or caliber of firearm. Should the same rules apply to a 10-year-old as a 17-year-old? Should a single-shot .22 and a .30-06 be considered equal?
Let me explain why the answer should be "absolutely not," and lay out my five reasons your children should learn how to shoot.
Before you introduce your child to the shooting sports, your first thought should be "why now?" Is it because you started at this age, or is it because your child is ready for some serious responsibility? Just because you started at 7 doesn't mean your kid should too. Give it some thought. Second-guess yourself. Wait a week. Then give it some more thought.
If your child shows no interest in learning, don't push them into it. Maybe they'll change their mind when they're older. One thing is for sure, if you try to cram it down their throats, it won't be fun for anyone. And while it's a serious endeavor, it should be fun as well.
Strict supervision and evidence that the child is ready for the responsibility are paramount. Even the most composed, forward-thinking 12-year-old is still a child, and should always be supervised accordingly. If you think little kids with firearms are cute, or that your kid doesn't need to be supervised closely, do everyone a favor and sell your guns.
1. Safety and Responsibility in the wider world
Shooting teaches young people safety and responsibility not just for themselves, but for others. Like most people, a child is primarily concerned with his or her own wishes and desires. When it comes to responsibility, handling a gun is the big leagues. What's more serious than a loaded firearm? On a swingset, a child learns that if he or she is not careful, they could scrape a knee or break an arm. Learning to shoot opens the child's perspective. It doesn't just teach safety for one's own sake, but also that following the rules keeps other people safe as well. And that carelessness can have consequences beyond themselves.
2. It's Dangerous.
That's right, I'm telling you the inherent danger of firearms is a good reason to teach your children to shoot. Fear of litigation has turned playgrounds into boring, corner-padded hills of wood chips that offer children no challenge. Studies show that those tall slides and monkey bars of yesteryear actually helped children overcome their fears and gave them challenges to progressively master. Children who don't face challenges such as these end up with more fear and anxiety -- they don't realize what they're capable of, because they've never performed near their limits. A kid who has climbed the skill ladder from BB gun to deer rifle has confronted and contained danger, and is better prepared mentally for challenges later in life.
3: It requires concentration, practice and perseverance.
Yes, I know: So does a video game. So does learning the piano. But those activities don't teach the other lessons on this list. And you'd be hard pressed to find another activity that does. Rock climbing comes to mind.
4. They'll learn to trust their own judgment.
When I go to the public range, I often see idiotic behavior. Sweeping the line, horseplay, whatever. And when that happens I pack up and leave. A young person who has been taught safe firearms handling knows to leave immediately when things go bad, even if the offender is the adult in charge. They'll also know to leave a party or a friend's house (no matter what the others do) when some kid decides to show off his dad's Glock.
5. It can mark the transition from little kid to responsible kid on his/her way to adulthood.
What is the family-oriented American rite of passage that signals a boy or girl has crossed over to young adulthood? There is no seminal experience we all share. As a result, and I'm just going by my own observations here, many young people extend their childhoods well into their twenties, stumbling along, not knowing what to do or how to act. Firearms can act as a great demarcator. When you tell your child they're ready to learn, or even better, when you tell them they're experienced and knowledgeable enough to handle grandpa's 45-70, they'll know they've crossed over. And if you've done your job, they'll behave accordingly. Good luck.