Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gun Safety and Kids

I was having a discussion with a man who was in his 70’s. He expressed how he regretted that his grand-children and great grand-children would never have the opportunity to learn to shoot a gun at public school. I was wondering what he could be talking about? I expressed that schools are the last place I would expect anyone to learn to shoot. Why would he say that? Some of the worst mass murders have happened in schools. “Don’t you know?” he said, “That up until the 70’s schools had rifle and skeet gun clubs and teams. There were even many schools with gun ranges in them.” I know that I looked completely taken aback. I mean I’m not really that young. I thought I knew a lot about gun history. Apparently not! A gun range in a public school!?
Shooting clubs, now quietly becoming extinct, were once such a mainstay of American high-school life that in the first half of the 20th century, they were regularly installed in the basements of new educational buildings.
While researching for this article I found an article from the Sunday Gazette in Schenectady, New York dated January 9, 2000. There is a High School there that still had a shooting team. The article was about how the interest in the shooting team was waning. But they still have a team! In 2000!
“In 1975, New York state had over 80 school districts with rifle teams. In 1984, that had dropped to 65. By 1999 there were just 26. The state’s annual riflery championship was shut down in 1986 for lack of demand. This, sadly, is a familiar story across the country. The clubs are fading from memory, too.”
“A Chicago Tribune report from 2007 notes the astonishment of a Wisconsin mother who discovered that her children’s school had a range on site. ‘I was surprised, because I never would have suspected to have something like that in my child’s school,’ she told the Tribune. The district’s superintendent admitted that it was now a rarity, confessing that he ‘often gets raised eyebrows’ if he mentions the range to other educators. The astonished mother raised her eyebrows — and then led a fight to have the range closed. ‘Guns and school don’t mix,’ she averred. If you have guns in school, that does away with the whole zero-tolerance policy’”
But how wise is that “zero-tolerance policy”? Until 1989, there were only a few school shootings in which more than two victims were killed. This was despite widespread ownership of — and familiarity with — weapons and an absence of “gun-free zones.” As George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams has observed, for most of American history “private transfers of guns to juveniles were unrestricted. Often a youngster’s 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.” This was a right of passage, conventional and uncontroversial across the country. “Gee, Dad . . . A Winchester!” read one particularly famous ad. “In Virginia,” Williams writes, “rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school, and sometimes storing their guns in the trunk of their cars during the school day, parked on the school grounds.” Many of these guns they could buy at almost any hardware store or gas station — or even by mail order. The 1968 Gun Control Act, supported happily by major gun manufacturers who wished to push out their competition, put a stop to this.
The notion that guns should form a part of education has a rich pedigree in our republic. In 1785, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his 15-year-old nephew Peter Carr with some scholarly advice. Having instructed him to read “ancient history in detail” and expounded a little on which works of “Roman history” and “Greek and Latin poetry” were the most profitable, Jefferson counseled that “a strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.”
Guns are not the problem in schools. Kids and their upbringing, (parenting, or lack thereof). Why do you think schools had gun ranges? Many years ago before the unfounded paranoia against guns, kids used to be around them a lot more often. Many states had holidays on the first day of hunting season because the kids would go out with their parents hunting. Some states and towns still practice this.
In the 50’s shooting was so common that a teen ager with a gun in their car or even over the handlebars of their bike was not a problem. Now in 2015 there are programs that teach kids to not touch a gun if they find one. I’m not criticizing these programs but do you really need a program to keep your kids safe from a gun? I think if my oldest son found a gun and was afraid for other kids, he would have cleared the weapon and secured it. Then he would tell an adult. He knew how to handle a weapon at the age of eight if not before. All of my children learned at least that young. I’ve even tested them with a weapon they were not familiar with and one that I knew was safe. They would always keep the rules, even if they were not sure how to clear the weapon.
Each parents must determine at what age they can teach safety. I don’t think that 6 is too young depending on the child. Just teaching safety and the rules at that age without actually letting them handle a weapon would be a good start. By the time my kids were teenagers, they had been shooting for several years. A gun was not a mystery. They did not have a curiosity of guns. They knew how to shoot, clear, manipulate, and safely handle a hand gun, rifle and shotgun. As adults I have asked my kids if they had ever taken a gun out when my wife and I were not present. They said they had not because whenever they wanted to see a gun I would let them reminding them of the safety rules and teaching a little about the gun. They never were curious because guns were common enough to quell any curiosity.
When I was younger I probably was too cavalier with my gun storage. I should have locked them up instead of just keeping them “up”. My Grandkids are a little safer even though I, and their parents, have taught them safety also.
Kids should learn about guns from you. The school used to teach this because of how common it was. They knew, and so did parents, that this was a part of their education. Many of these traditions were just as common in the UK too.
We don’t have a gun problem with kids, it’s an adult problem. Adults set the tone for whether out kids are afraid of guns or if they regard them with respect. We determine if our kids keep themselves safe or must rely on others to keep them safe. Give your children some independence and self-sufficiency. Teach them gun safety and how to safely handle a gun.