Introducing Your Children to Guns
With all the media hype today about gun control and children, our world needs a reality check. Guns are not the problem, as many claim them to be. Misinformation and lack of education are the root causes behind these tragic incidents we hear about on the news. So how can we help solve this issue? It begins with introducing our children to guns and teaching them from a young age the importance of gun safety. Here are the basic steps you can take now to help your kids down the road.
First, be open and transparent about guns around your kids. The second you hide firearms from them and don’t talk about them, the more they will be drawn to them. Kids are naturally very curious about new things, so take advantage of that fact by speaking with them about it. Show them how to safely handle a firearm, let them hold it (empty and open chamber, of course) in a seated position, and answer any questions they have about it. Show them the wild game you bring home and the damage that guns can do so they will have no confusion in their minds between toys and the real deal. Let them know that a parent should always be present when guns are around. If they see a gun at a friend’s house, let them know the familiar NRA phrase, “Stop! Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown-up.”
After they’re familiar with guns a bit, you’ll probably want to give them a BB gun to instill basic firearm skills. I know there’s sensitivity about an official “Red Ryder, carbine-action, two-hundred-shot range model air rifle” and how kids will shoot their eye out (if you don’t know what we’re talking about, you owe it to yourself to look it up). That’s why you need to only let them handle it when you are present. Show them how to aim, how to re-load, how to always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and let them know they should only ever touch the trigger when they are ready to shoot. Allow them to carry their BB gun along on fall walks in the woods, empty of course. Observe them and be hyper-vigilant about your own gun safety. There’s no better reminder to yourself than taking a kid out hunting, since they will mimic what you do.
Next, enroll them in a hunter safety course. They will not only learn about best hunting practices, but also about basic gun safety on the range. Instructors will accompany you and your child to show them shooting range safety and etiquette. They will likely start out shooting .22 caliber rifles since they have very little kick and offer a good primer on the world of larger guns. The Sportster rimfire rifle, available in .22 long rifle and .22 Winchester Mag., is a great first choice for kids. It is a single shot, break-open rifle to teach them the ropes before moving onto multiple shots.
After they’ve completed their safety course and are comfortable using a firearm at the range (and you’re comfortable with their safety practices), you can take them on their first real hunt. The first hunt is best if it’s a stationary hunt, such as sitting in a blind or tree stand waiting for a deer or turkey to come along. That way, they don’t have to carry around a loaded weapon, as you would chasing something like upland birds. Sit with them in the stand or blind and whisper tips to them as the hunt occurs. You may want to start their first hunt with a smaller gauge shotgun or lower caliber rifle, such as a .410, 20-gauge, or .243, depending on the hunt type. This assumes they’ve practiced with these guns at the range and are comfortable with their use. Whittaker Guns has several options in these styles, including the Mossberg 500 Bantam combo pump 20-gauge. This shotgun offers a 13” pull length that will be comfortable for children.
If you’ve gone through these steps with your children, they should have a respect for guns that will last a lifetime. The key is to nurture their curiosity and de-mystify firearms. After that, just focus on your own gun safety around them, because you’re the best example they have. If you’re careless with your firearm, you’ll likely raise a child who is careless with them. But if you take the responsibility seriously, you’ll have created a sportsman or woman for life.