When I was given an opportunity to write this series about kids and guns, I was so excited that my brain froze a little. Where do I start? How do I share the absolute LOVE for guns that pervades my life and my children’s lives? Do I show pictures of the guns that sit on my couch?
Yes, you read that correctly, there’s usually a gun sitting on the arm of my couch, or leaning in a corner, or on the kitchen counter, causing me to say, “Don’t drip on my 2011” as my son unloads the dishwasher. Are we crazy? Lazy? Unsafe? Nope, we just have the tools that are part of our life — IN our life. On a daily basis, we hold, touch, shoot, clean, lock up, unlock, shoot, clean, reload, unload, check they’re clear, dry fire, shoot…and basically just live guns.
I guess that’s where I’ll start – that kids can live with guns and not only be safe, but carve out a life full of amazing opportunities, filled with traveling the country, the world even, and it’s not just something you read about in gun blogs like this. I don’t consider myself abnormal, and I think my kids are what I call everyday kids, just living a life that runs in harmony with the values and history that they were born into. This isn’t to say everyday kids can hop into what my kids and others are doing with guns, just like my kids wouldn’t be able to hop into national champion-level swimming, but there are kids who compete in sports at a national and world champion level and nobody ever asks if their bats are too dangerous or their skis too sharp. In fact, sports-related injuries in competition shooting are really not something that crosses our minds, but having had kids competing in other sports, like swimming or wrestling for the Quantico wrestling team coached by Marines, I can say that I HAVE told them to tap out if someone’s hurting them – no use ruining a joint for a wrestling meet.
Kids can also hunt, plink, and perhaps even just learn valuable life skills from shooting guns. The way in which guns are used is as much a teaching tool as the way an athlete uses their gear in any sport. Children learn from a young age self-control, safety, teamwork, and sportsmanship from competitions. They learn stewardship of natural resources from hunting. From being part of most activities that guns are involved in they learn about their communities and the people in them.
From Hunter Safety and the Department of Natural Resources to the various organizations designed to preserve animals and the food, habitats, and balance that needs to be maintained for people to live with animals, kids can take away lessons from guns that leave an impact beyond the part the guns are involved in. Take predator control and farming- these things go hand in hand with guns, hunting, and trapping, and the link to our food chain and the balance that needs to be maintained. Through hunting, kids learn about the impacts that industry and farming, and a whole host of environmental subjects. They learn about how all these things can affect animals and the environment.
But this series isn’t just going to talk about kids who compete with guns, and spend their time on the range or out hunting, we’re going to talk about all the of the following topics:
- The Basics
- Competitive Shooting
- Older kids
- Tactical Kids
Back to Basics
Every parent loves to share the adage, “Wait till you have kids!” – a loaded warning from our parents, about how horribly traumatic being a parent is. We’ve been told that things change when you have kids, that you realize how much your parents did for you, how much worry they carry while watching over you, how little sleep they get because of you. Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s all true! Anyone who does not have a child should never be in the business of giving child-rearing advice. If they’ve never sat frustrated at the gurgling baby who wants to play at 1 am, or worried anxiously listening for the sounds of breathing when the same child is ill, if they’ve never sat in an ambulance with a tiny person or laughed at the joy on their faces when they learn to walk, well, they’re missing out at a little slice of the human experience.
However, with my little slice of humanity, I do something that some people would have an absolute conniption fit over. I hand my child a gun, and tell him to run and shoot! I let other people tell him to run faster and shoot! I let even more people tell him to sling one gun on, set up another on a table, and run with a third while shooting it, in order to get to the others and then shoot them!
No, we are not secretly training as part of a militia. And I am a great mother. I’m empowering and educating my kids. I’m making them safer than most adults are even capable of being when it comes to firearms handling. I’m giving them life skills that will carry them through all sorts of situations, and possibly protect themselves, help them bring dinner home when hunting, and introduce them to people they would otherwise never have met in life. I’m bringing them to see vistas most kids can honestly just sit and dream of, and while the teacher assigns the next project in preparation to meet SOLs on a test, my kids are reloading ammo, prepping for matches, researching travel routes, and enjoying the world we live in.
So how do guns make my kids better people? How do they shape them into well-rounded persons? What about keeping this quiet, not advertising we have guns because it’s such a “private” thing? I used to be that way. My husband is a police officer, a State Trooper, gone all the time, we’re alone a lot. He was in the Marine Corps on active duty long enough to become a Lt. Col, and gone for a lot of those years and we were on our own. And to me, being aware and armed was something I would never have changed. I grew up hunting, shooting competitions, and living in the house of a gunsmith, and when family friends came over, it was a celebration of guns: BB guns, black powder cannons, what new process was happening in someone’s shop. Guns and the machining and science behind things was part of my life. So, having guns around my kids was a no-brainer.
But guns are more than just machines and science in my family, they are also a piece of both my personal and family history. Guns are to my family what sports like swimming and football are to others. Having achieved a level in college athletics where NCAA Division wins went hand-in-hand with guns, I see the incredible ways that guns can open new horizons in the life of a young person, just as other sports can. I competed in high-power rifle as a teenager, and my senior year of high school, my coach for smallbore and some family friends put me on the path toward college scholarship for shooting. It was part of not just my family’s life as the daughter of a gunsmith, but part of what took me to college and helped me to achieve success in both a sport and my education.
While working on this article, my eldest son was preparing to shoot a big match, a Pro Series 3 gun match where the top prize is $50,000. At 17, being able to compete in a field of professional shooters, there is something both very simple and very intricate going on with his skill and achievements – he’s wrapping in the life experiences and work of a couple generations of our family – mine and my husband’s competition shooting, my dad’s gunsmithing and his encouragement of myself to compete when I was young and I even see the efforts my grandparents put into supporting me. As a teenager, I drove to my grandparents in a bad snowstorm to practice air rifle in their basement because the roads were too bad to get to practice while I was preparing for a Junior Olympic event at the Olympic Training Center. And the small things done over lifetimes that are part of the entire tapestry of tradition and empowerment that skill with firearms offers to youth really come back to the forefront of my mind as I see my own children progress in the shooting sports. I see my grandfather peeking around the corner as I shot my air rifle when I walk out to help my son move a steel spinner that he needs to set up to practice for his event. I see that guns are not just for hunting and safety, but they are really woven into my life and my kids’ lives in ways that change and open opportunities, just like other sports can in the lives of other youth.
In my busy week prepping with my eldest, I’m also getting ready to drop my youngest at my sister’s. This always involves planning around what guns he can bring and what can they do in the woods with them. I’m sure some helicopter parent is ready with a comment, but I look at it like the town of Mayberry – people went hunting with guns, they walked around with guns, the kids played with BB guns, it was normal. Relate it to my experiences above, and it’s expected. Yet American society as a whole has taken a turn to the Twilight Zone, and we’re in a place where kids aren’t allowed to make gun shapes with their hands, or chew their sandwich into the shape of a gun…our toy guns are tipped in orange plastic plugs, and even Nerf guns cause the parent eschewing “good taste” a moment of hesitation about whether it’s politically correct enough to allow their kids to play with “guns.”
But I think we need to summon a little bit of Andy Taylor in our lives. He would have walked in, shut the tv off, and said enough of this nonsense, and told Opie he lives in Mayberry, and here we use common sense. So how do we do that? We don’t live in Mayberry anymore. Most people can’t leave their doors unlocked and send our kids off to wander the town with their friends — the majority of people in the U.S. do not live in suburbia, they don’t have a white picket fence. The majority of Americans live in cities, apartments, duplexes, population centers. It’s part of the changing demographic of America. Another part of the demographic is that there are more and more single parent households where the mother is the sole caregiver. We have real obstacles keeping America from being anything remotely like Mayberry, but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect the same sort of values.
Expectations and perspective.
We need to change expectations, we need to stop buying into the America that is being fed by popular media, that we are consumers whose job it is to gobble up every bit of what we’re told about what to buy, wear, and play. We need to take back our culture and empower families to carry on some of those traditional values of hunting, shooting, and gun ownership.
When I was 5, the gun cabinet was in our living room. Dad locked the top, but we all knew the loaded pistol, for self-protection, was right in the bottom left door; key up high, out of the little kids’ reach. Nobody dared touch it without an adult’s permission, but every one of us knew what was where and how to use it.
There is an article that recently went viral, written by a mother who used to be opposed to guns, Robyn Sandoval. When I asked Robyn why she thinks her words resonate with so many people, she said that her perspective as a formerly anti-gun parent was that people want to hear why, and how someone thinks what they do, without being called names in the process. They want respect. And I think it points to ways to bring American back to Mayberry, at least maybe in how we treat each other — to bring back respect. And respect is really part of why guns are great tools for teaching kids, teaching them respect for not just what guns mean, but respect for the rights and history of America and our place in the world, respect for our forefathers and the guns that shaped the world. Because face it, without guns, we would live in a much different world. Roby’s previous philosophy was one of, “why can’t we all just get along” was changed when she bought a gun. Her vantage point as a mother switched from “leave it to the professionals” to “it’s my duty to care for my family.” And in making sure she could carry out that duty of protecting, she saw what our founding fathers saw, and those in law enforcement and military know – guns are tools, and Americans can and should exercise that basic human right to self -protection by owning and using them. She began to see, as a gun owner, how the PC treatment has come to hurt common sense, not just with how we teach our children about guns, but how we treat the dialogue on guns. America has transformed in short decades from a place where sales ads depicted mom and the kids with guns, to the current climate, where kids cannot have a pocket knife in school for fear of a lawsuit. This makes my head spin! We’ve become so afraid of lawsuits and what others think that many of us have stopped thinking altogether.
Daisy hits the mark with this ad. They were tapping into what every kid loves – knocking over soda cans, shooting quarters, and milk jugs. I want to see holidays celebrated like they were in my family; the birthday parties were cake and ice cream, and then BB guns, carbide Cannons, black powder cannons, shooting with the kids and grandparents.
Easter baskets for me have contained everything from rolls of caps to Tannerite powder to shoot and blow up. Fourth of July, that’s the real family gun holiday! We make a lot of noise, and enjoy the tools that were basically enshrined by our Founding Fathers as the tools that set us free as a people, as Americans. So I challenge you to think outside the box; to share some American values and act on them. Add some guns to your Easter baskets, or maybe a box of .22s and a promise to spend the afternoon shooting with your kids. Make it Sunday Gun-day! Go out and shoot with your kids, take them hunting, plink at soda cans, talk about values. I think Jefferson said it well when he said, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
Take some time and be inconvenienced when you plan for your next hunt or shooting trip – consider exposing yourself to a little hassle, and by that I mean, take a kid with you to the range or the woods. Exercise too much liberty and help a young person learn about why we have guns and what they mean and I guarantee you’ll have some fun in the process.