I like guns. Everyone should own one. Well, maybe not everyone. I don't think people should be allowed to own them if they are repeat offenders or maybe if they show up for their prom 20 years late in an Easter bunny costume.
But it's certainly something that people ought to learn how to do if they are of sound and upright mind. More importantly, hawkeyes should learn how to make hawkeyes. People who aren't familiar with guns are often afraid of them, but the more people become familiar with them, the more at peace they will become. The best way to do this is to teach them when they're young. And for all you doubters out there, here are five reasons why you should teach them:
1. Shooting Teaches Discipline
A lot of people just think that shooting is about destroying things. Nothing could be further from the truth. If people wanted to destroy things they would probably hit something other than a ball with a baseball bat. With shooting, on the other hand, to do it well, you have to learn to keep total control and have all of your fundamentals in balance: Your sight picture, your position, your breathing, and your trigger pull.
2. Shooting Teaches Responsibility
Some people think that shooters point empty guns at each other all the time and play around with them when they aren't shooting them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most shooters know the principles of weapon safety: never point at something unless you're prepared to shoot at it; always keep the weapon aimed at the ground when not firing it; never have your finger in the trigger well unless you are about to fire, etc. To a gun owner, intentionally flagging someone with a gun is a taboo on par with streaking the stage at your mother's funeral. (As I recall, the first time I was intentionally flagged by someone who had not been taught the basics of weapons safety, it took a moment for me to say, "What the hell!" because I was surprised anyone could be so stupid.) The most important thing to repeat to a kid when you first put a weapon into their hands (and I have) is, "That is a real gun. Always assume its dangerous." You might have to threaten to take it away once or twice, but they learn fast enough.
3. Shooting Teaches Situational Awareness
Kids need to know never to point a gun at someone intentionally, but they also need to know how to avoid pointing it at someone unintentionally. To do this, they should be aware that they are in control of the gun when they are ready to shoot it. And, most importantly, whenever someone is in that 180 degrees in front of them, between their three o'clock and their nine o'clock, they need to know that they do not ever pull the trigger, point the weapon, or even have the weapon hot or loaded. Shooting teaches kids to be aware of not only their situation, but of the situations of everyone around them.
4. Shooting Teaches Camaraderie
This is something that parents and kids could use a lot more of. Shooting may not take a long time to learn. But it is something that can come much faster if you have a good coach, correcting you on your breathing, your position, or your trigger pull. It used to be that parents taught their children everything they needed to know. Today, parents try to let the daycare, teachers and eventually professors do that. But shooting. That is one of those things that you can teach them that no one else should (other than maybe a boy scout, girl scout, or drill instructor).
5. Shooting Teaches Self-Confidence
You might not need to be strong to pull a trigger. But it does take a will to do so. It is surprising how difficult it can be to get some people to even touch a rifle. A lot of people don't even know that they can do it, even though it is not hard. Shooting well is something that can only come through practice. The real hurdle that people need to overcome is nervousness which wrecks their concentration when they shoot. Your zeroing can create a map of your self-confidence. And it can create a map of your child's self-confidence also.
Learning to respect the gun is something that every child should learn. A gun is the sort of magister that can teach a lot but that also requires a lot. The high schools our grandparents went to knew this, which was why students could bring rifles to school and use the school range and no one would have thought anything of it. In the 1940s, a kid could be seen traveling on New York City's subway to school with a rifle slung across his or her back. Back then, that would be just another day in the Big Apple. No one worried; they knew that the kid respected the gun and could handle it safely.
It would be nice to have that sense of security back, but I recognize that it probably won't happen. But we can all teach children how to feel safe around guns and, if nothing else, that the gun is safe as long as it is in safe hands. Teach your children how to handle a gun, and they will learn how to handle themselves.