I grew up quite literally in the middle of nowhere. I could see one house from where we lived, we were a mile from the termination of a three and a half mile long dead-end road. My town had two public buildings- only one if you didn’t attend the Methodist Church. We were 15 minutes from the nearest gas station, an hour from the nearest shopping mall, and 30 minutes from a reasonable grocery store.
Where I lived, and live now (same general area) a few things were a given.
1. Winter was ski season.
2. Fall was hunting season.
People from all over the state would inundate our small town for these and similar activities. The mountains offered so much to people that it is still a pretty popular recreation area, indeed many of the locals partook in the same hobbies, I mean- the opportunity was literally in our back yards.
So, I grew up hiking, hunting, and fishing. These are activities I still love to do. With these hobbies, I was exposed at a young age to the culture of firearms. What they were, how they work, why they are dangerous, and why they can be a lot of fun. I remember my father teaching my brother and I how to shoot BB guns off the back porch at soda cans and water bottles propped up on the stone wall. As we grew older, we graduated to .22 rifles, shotguns, and eventually, hunting rifles. Target shooting became a major pass-time for us, and we would spend whole afternoons with our favorite small caliber rifles banging away at targets, quite often in friendly competition.
As this hobby evolved, I began to amass a small collection of firearms. Do not picture those screwball survivalists with racks of firearms and closets of ammo- mine were all hunting and target rifles, and I rarely had more ammunition than I could use in a day or two. This was back in the day when 500 rounds of .22 ammo was around $8, so no big deal.
I’m older now. I’m married with two young boys, and the overall culture and attitude towards shooting and shooting sports has been shifted. When my wife was pregnant with our first son, I was asked if I would sell my rifles, because- you know….no self-respecting parent these days would have GUNS in the house while they have children.
I actually thought it, but decided against it for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.
As a New Yorker, I’ve seen a ton of changes in the laws of ownership and usage of firearms in my state. The legislation on its face has one thing to it: Protect the citizens of the state from malevolent usage of guns. If we can limit what is accessible, used, and owned, we can be safer……And nobody should argue with that. The safety of our people and especially that of our children is paramount. Whatever we can do to protect our kids SHOULD be done.
Which brings me back to my decision to keep mine in the house. This was not a unilateral decision either. It was a serious discussion I had with the Mrs. about it. If for any reason she was uncomfortable with the idea, they wouldn’t be there. However, she grew up in a family that had members in law enforcement, and she too was exposed to such things at an early age.
Now, when I say ‘exposure’ for both her and I, I mean ‘education.’ Both of us grew up knowing full well what we had in the house, WHY they were dangerous, and WHY they shouldn’t be messed about with. Our childish curiosity was nipped early by fathers who took us out and demonstrated what we had been told. The Mrs. and I decided that hiding everything away and making it taboo could possibly lead to unsupervised exposure with potentially disastrous consequences.
I decided that the protection of my kids on such a matter was my responsibility, and I could not rely on the legislation being handed down at the state level to do it for me. Let me be perfectly clear– if I thought for a second that bundling everything I own into a sack and hurling it into a lake would guarantee the safety of my children, I’d be up to my knees in water already, hammer-tossing a hefty bag. But even if I did that- I can’t believe that everyone else would do it too. And that means that somewhere, someday, The Narrator and Mini-Me will come into contact with a firearm. And it makes sense to me that this initial contact should be supervised, should be educational, and should be safe.
That means that its on ME.
I cannot, in good conscience shirk such a weighty responsibility. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when a young person picks up a firearm for the first time without knowing what the hell he was looking at. Spoiler alert: He accidentally shot his best friend in the stomach. (He did survive) I was a freshman in college, and while the ambulance was attending to the victim, I was charged with talking to the shock-ridden shooter who could barely stand up, much less talk. That was terrifying, and I don’t want my boys to be at either end of that set of circumstances.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to go out, buy guns, and teach their kids about them. Not in the least. My point is that you need to be able to gauge the culture you live in, and decide if you can get away with the ‘abstinence only’ approach to firearm safety. If you think you can, and that’s the road you want to take- I support that. But given where we live, and the profession that I’m getting into, I cannot hide the fact that such things are going to exist, and be under the same roof as us. I feel that if I try to hide it, it’ll only become an object of more fascination, and make things worse.
These are not decisions to be taken lightly. Given everything that’s come down the pipe in the last few years, the very subject of firearms ownership is a powder-keg waiting to go off at every conversation. I’ve seen friendships actually ruined by people with opposite ideas on the matter.
I realize I’m even going WAY out on a limb by putting this here at all, but as a parent, this is not something to shy away from.
There is also something more in my desire to keep these at home. Some of the best memories I have as a youngster was when my father and brother and I would burn brass in the back yard at paper targets, or make a line and go hunting small game. So everything else considered, there is a much more personal reason for my desire to expose my boys to such things. I want to share with them the experiences that my father had with us, his father had with him, and so on. I refuse to say “No, we can’t do that” because everyone else is frightened by shooting sports these days.
….And I’ve started already. The Narrator came with me twice on small game hunts this past fall. He was a perfect listener, he had great fun. He wore his bright vest, hearing protection, and stayed behind me the entire time. He asked questions, and was bummed when the season was over and we couldn’t go out anymore. But while I did one of these outings, I witnessed firsthand the fear that others have of such things.
We had just come out of the woods. I had the rear hatch of the Subaru open, with The Narrator Sitting on the bumper while we removed our gear. I had unloaded the shotgun and was placing it in its case when I looked up and saw a couple walking down the road. They were about 100 yards away and they too saw me. Vest, shotgun, child….and they stopped. Right were they were they stopped. In the middle of the road in the middle of their walk. They stood there and waited. They waited until I had stowed the gear, shed the vest, took The Narrator’s gear off of him, and closed the trunk. Then, and only then, did they continue their walk, and when they were close enough to acknowledge, I said “Hello” – and got nothing- NOTHING in return. A half-nod from the man, and the woman actively turned her head away from me and looked off into space.
This fear is also something I’m going to have to teach them about and, if I’m honest- to respect and understand. I cannot think less of someone because they believe they’d be protecting THEIR children better by not exposing them to such things. I don’t have to agree with it, but there’s no reason for me to stare them down with a disapproving look.
We are all trying our damndest to protect our kids in the best way we know how. Most ways have their merits, and all ways have their flaws. I’ve made my decision on this matter for a bunch of reasons, and have the support of the Mrs. on it. Together we will follow the examples set by our parents, and just like the people who choose to walk a different path on the subject- we’ll wait to see how it turns out.
…..I realize this is a touchy subject. Spirited discussion is one of my favorite things on the planet, so if you disagree vehemently, don’t hesitate to say so. At the same time, I’d like to try to avoid the political discussions that surround the matter, and stick to the points which are relevant to raising our kids. No theory is a perfect one, and as with anything else to do with raising kids, all we can do is our best.
Back to your regularly scheduled inane content tomorrow.