The Two Extremes of the Gun Debate
An opinion piece from David Horsey at the Los Angeles Times discusses a recent gun death where a 5-year-old Kentucky boy was playing with a rifle he had gotten as a gift and shot and killed his 2-year-old sister.
For many people, it was a revelation that there are companies that manufacture guns specifically for children. The boy in question had a Crickett rifle, a smaller version of an adult weapon designed specifically for little trigger fingers. The guns come in a variety of happy colors, including pink and even swirls.
Some people think giving guns that shoot real bullets to kids is a rather insane idea, but not folks in the gun culture, where it is perfectly normal.
My first impulse here is to say that David Horsey is probably just being sloppy by issuing a broad statement instead of providing some nuance. Or maybe he really does believe kids shouldn’t have access to guns. The article was embedded with a poll asking, “Is it acceptable to teach kids to shoot guns?” The results show 45% yes, 55% no. If Horsey doesn’t think kids should be given guns, he is apparently not alone in that opinion. The problem here is that this represents a view just as extreme as those that believe in full access to all guns for everyone.
It goes without saying that the family of the two children made several tragic mistakes. They left the gun loaded, did not store it safely and gave the boy a gun he was not ready for. I trust our readers are wise enough to know that this is atypical of most gun owners. I rarely believe in criminal charges in these types of situations because no court can issue a punishment worst than what they are already receiving. Not surprisingly there has been talk of some responsibility on the part of the gun manufacturer. This is where sensible people should take pause.
Most kids are introduced to guns in much the same way I was. They start with a BB gun and progress to larger and more powerful guns as they grow in size and ability. Each step represents an increase in skill and more trust from the adults in their life. With each new gun comes challenges. The guns are larger and more difficult to handle. This can create nervousness and bad shooting habits. So manufacturers have made youth model guns for decades. The ‘Cricket’ rifle used in this shooting is one of those such guns. You can see the ad for the Cricket rifle here. The gun has minimal recoil because of the small round it shoots and because the gun is small it accommodates young shooters.
What needs to be understood here is that youth models promote safe shooting habits. With the right gun and proper instruction kids can be introduced to guns in a very safe and fun way. Summer camps are a great way to do this. Trusted friends or family members. Hunter education programs are required in most states these days and they are an excellent resource on gun safety. And it’s not just about kids either. Adults that are new shooters benefit from the same kinds of programs.
If there is an added marketing bump by making them in fun colors, is that a bad thing? Do we fault the company for making pink guns for girls? My sister never took an interest in shooting when we were kids and that meant she missed out on some of the same quality time with our father that my brother and I had. Maybe a pink rifle might have changed that. Or maybe it would have been an evil marketing gimmick of the gun companies.
Last weekend I took my nephew on his third hunting trip with me. He isn’t ready to shoot on his own yet but he provides good company. We sat in our turkey blind and talked about all sorts of things. Afterwards he got to shoot a couple of guns I had brought along. He knows the rules for safe gun handling but we went over them anyway. I love that kid for the way his brain soaks up knowledge like a sponge. I am even more impressed at how eager he is to take his hunter education class this summer and ‘get his orange card’ meaning he has passed the class.
There is plenty of nonsense coming from the right side of the aisle on guns these days. It’s an over-reaction to perceptions their guns might be taken away. Essays like the one from David Horsey though, represent the extreme on the other side of the aisle. They ignore the proof that kids growing up around guns are generally safer with guns than kids with no experience and it helps prevent guns from becoming a forbidden fruit. If Horsey’s goal was simply to create a counter-weight to the pro-gun extremists, he has succeeded. Personally, I would prefer moderation on both sides.