By Mia Anstine, TheShootingChannel.com
I grew up in a household where my father hunted for food. Having pistols and rifles in the home seemed like a common thing to me. I later learned that not everyone was so fortunate.
Part of having firearms involves safety. I still remember, at about five years old, when my father took my brother and me outside and taught us about firearms. He showed us how each of his firearms operated and how to make them safe. Then he showed us how to load them. Next he showed us what they did. He shot them and exploded glass bottles and other items, explaining and demonstrating that they can be harmful if not used properly.
He told us not to ever point them at anything or anyone we didn’t intend to destroy. He then followed up the demonstration by telling us if anyone ever broke into the house and tried to take our lives, then and only then, were we to use any of them.
A few years later he taught my brother how to use the rifle to hunt. My brother was brought into the provider portion of the family.
I remember all of this because of the way my Dad taught us. He was not a certified instructor and had never taken any classes. He had learned from his grandfather and he knew that he wanted us to be safe. He wanted us to know that firearms were not toys. He put a little fear in us, but he also explained that the person holding the handgun or rifle was responsible for what it shot at.
When I was 13 years old, my parents divorced and my mother and I moved to the city. That is where I learned that not everyone was as privileged as I had been to learn about firearms. Walking home from school one afternoon, my cousin and I passed another kid’s house. There were police cars with their lights flashing and yellow tape all around the home. We later learned that the family had a firearm in that house. Their son and his friend were home alone after school. They found the firearm, and you can guess what happened next.
A life was lost that day. Not because of a “bad” firearm, but because the family hadn’t been safe in locking it up. They had not been safe in keeping it unloaded. They also had not been safe because they had not taught the children safety and respect of firearms. The visiting child, whose family did not own any firearms, also hadn’t been taught firearm safety. If either of these children had been educated, a tragedy may not have occurred that afternoon.
All families should teach their children about firearms and firearm safety. This is true whether or not they intend to own one. It is extremely important for your child to know what to do if he or she comes across a firearm. If you don’t own one, you may think this is not important but it absolutely is. What if your child visits another friend’s home where there are firearms? Will your child know what to do if the friend wants to “play” with mom or dad’s gun?
Firearm safety is a very important thing in our lives. It has been weighing on my mind a lot lately that some people think firearms are bad. That is a mistaken opinion because firearms are inanimate objects. They cannot perform without the assistance of a human being. The idea that they are evil is an opinion of fear, and the fear comes from lack of education. I don’t mean that some of these folks don’t have college degrees because some do. The thing is they have never been educated in firearms and firearm safety so they go with what they see.
For many the only exposure to firearms they have had is via Hollywood and television. They see people murdered. They see blood. They see guts and gore. They also see heroes who shoot from the hip and in the blink of an eye to eradicate bad guys with more shots than the gun can realistically hold. How are they to know whether or not that can really happen when what they see on the screen is all they know? It would be an outstanding thing if everyone, including movie and television producers were taught firearms safety.
It is imperative that you and your child know what to do if a firearm is encountered. Children need to know that TV shows and movies are not real life. As I mentioned above, many times firearms are handled carelessly in a show. Kids see TV and movie characters shot and “killed” and then see that same actor in another show. This can cause emotional numbness and confusion in a child’s mind. As a parent, you should make sure your child understands that television and Hollywood are not real. The best way to teach this is to take a course yourself.
How can you learn about firearms and safety?
- Visit the National Rifle Association (NRA) website.http://home.nra.org/directory/list/education-and-training-category – At the NRA site, among other things, you will find gun safety rules, listings of gun safety programs, certified ranges, training courses and programs for women and children.
- Go to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) website.http://www.nssf.org/shooting/learn/ – At the NSSF site you will find courses for first time shooters, links to safety courses, access to information about professional shooting ranges as well as shooting sports retailers in your area.
- Contact your local gun club. They will be able to inform you about upcoming classes.
- Get in touch with your local department of wildlife office. They will be able to tell you when a hunter-ed class will begin. In a hunter-ed class along with firearm safety you will learn survival skills.
“One of the unwritten rules of becoming a gun owner is that you have to also become an ambassador for the cause.” Rev. Kenn Blanchard.
I will continue to educate and be an ambassador. Maybe you should too. Don’t be afraid; be educated. If you don’t know where to go to learn, don’t be afraid to ask.