Last weekend we celebrated the Munchkin’s fifth birthday. Between the safari themed party prep, venison gumbo making and cupcake decorating it was a busy couple of days. I used to think time flew because each competition season passed by so quickly, but as a mom it feels like life is going at warp speed now.
It was also a special birthday for our little one because we gave her her first gun. She has been coveting dark pink rifles for a long time now. With every visit to our local dealer she has been talking about the day she gets to have her own gun, in dark pink. (Yes, color is very important!)
My husband and I purchased a little bolt-action .22 a while back and have thought long and hard about when we should give it to her. We are both sticklers about gun safety and feel strongly that anyone who wants to learn how to shoot should learn the basic rules of firearm safety, especially kids.
Guns are not taboo in our house. Munchkin knows that firearms are tools for people like police officers, soldiers, hunters and competition shooters. Anytime she has a question, we stop to answer it. Safety is always first and foremost and because of that, she already has a grasp of two of the rules:
- Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
- Do not point at or cover anything with the muzzle you do not intend to shoot.
Munchkin hasn’t shot her new rifle yet. She knows that shooting it is contingent upon her understanding the basics of gun safety. Learning the rules and acting responsibly is the incentive for her to take her first shots.
Kids & The Introduction to Shooting
Is five the magic number to get kids started in shooting? Well, everyone seems to have an opinion on that. Personally, I don’t think there is that magic age. Some will tell you they started shooting as young as two or three. Maybe that’s when they first pulled a trigger, but I think it is more important than ever to stress that firearm safety knowledge should be the gateway in order to learn how to shoot. So whether that’s five, ten or 40, age doesn’t matter. It comes down to understanding and maturity.
It seems like everyone has an opinion when it comes to guns too. Some make rational and educated comments. Then there are those who blurt out statements (sometimes maliciously) without any regard for the facts, who they are talking to or how it might affect others.
Considering how important shooting sports, hunting and the Second Amendment are to us, most of our family and friends were excited about Munchkin’s present. I was not prepared for someone close to our family to direct their negative response toward my little one instead of bringing their concerns to us, her parents. Despite my attempts to address the issue, I am sad to say the responses have been unapologetic and disrespectful. It saddens me. As a result, these exchanges have had me thinking about better ways to deal and prepare for such interactions in the future.
Talk to your kids. With the gun debate raging across the nation, many have no issue forcing their opinions (often uninformed, I might add) anywhere they can, even on kids. Some children have even faced reprimand for bringing up guns and hunting in school. It is important to address the issue with your young ones and how you think it is best to deal with it as a family. There may people in your lives who do not agree or appreciate your family’s interest in shooting and guns. The answer may be to not have your kids discuss firearms at school or other settings at all.
Address those who try to influence your kids. People who attempt to force their own political beliefs on your children are challenging to deal with, especially if that person is someone you respect or are close to. Whether it is a teacher who has control over your child’s performance and learning experience or a family member who disapproves, as a parent it is a tough position to be in. How you address it depends on each situation, but emphasizing the importance of firearm safety and education when it comes to your children and guns is a good place to start. You may wish to reach out to these individuals and let them know you don’t appreciate them expressing their opinions to your children in such a manner. Consider making an offer to help them learn more about gun safety and the firearms heritage that you are proud of. If they are open to it, be able to point them to proper resources like the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, Project Childsafe, hunter safety courses for your state and shooting organizations you belong to.
Set an example. In a perfect world people would be able to balance a caring nature and good will with rationality, but sadly this doesn’t always happen. In the extreme cases, punishing, reprimanding and treating gun owners and their children negatively is a type of bullying. Ensure you follow true gun safety rules are practicing safe storage with your own firearms.. How you handle these issues as a parent can be a good learning lesson for your children. Think about the ways you can tackle the issue in the most productive manner and strive to set a positive example for your kids to learn from.
Those who choose to negatively influence children lose the most. Not only will they lose respect, but they are shutting themselves off from a learning experience they can benefit from. In the case of family and friends they could miss special moments in your lives. As for my munchkin, for now, sharing her firearm, shooting and hunting experiences with some individuals is simply off limits.