Monday, October 31, 2005

Kids and guns

When a colleague sent this to me - 8-year-old girl bags first bear of Maryland's hunting season - the other day, I admit my first reaction was to chuckle. I thought it was a joke.

Then I read into it and dug a little deeper. It was no joke. I guess the gun culture knows no bounds.

Kindly notice that I'm not drawing this discussion on national lines. It would be easy to say this is an American affliction, but that would be an overly simplistic view.

I'm not so naive as to believe that guns are the root of all evil. I'm also not so naive as to believe that gun violence would cease to exist if we added a layer of government bureaucracy to our lives under the guise of so-called gun control. The genie's out of the bottle, and she won't be returning to it any time soon.

But something's wrong with this. I look at my own eight-year-old daughter and wonder if I would ever be possessed to allow her to do the same. Short answer: no.

Your turn: Guns today. Discuss.


Suzanne said...

I have such mixed emotions about guns. I realize that guns don't kill people...people kill people. But I'm realistic enough to know that most people aren't responsible enough, especially children, to handle guns properly. I won't even get into criminals and thugs and the role they play. I do know this though: as with everything, education is the answer. The guns are there. Teach people to respect them, the consequences of using them, and their actions if they mess with them. If you are brave enough to do so, teach your child how to handle one in a controlled environment with adult supervision (shooting range for example) and you take the mystery and fascination away from their inquisitive minds. At least if they are ever faced with a situation where they come across a gun...they understand the magnitutde and the severity of its implications.

Dean said...

The thing that bothers me about this story is that there's no mention of adult supervision. I presume that it was there... surely nobody would be insane enough to turn an 8 year old loose with a high powered rifle?

Other than that, I have no objection to the story. I don't see a problem with children being taught to use firearms. Saying that 'the genie's out of the bottle' implies that it is firearms that are the problem. I don't think that is the case.

Oddly enough, I've been thinking about this the last couple of days. The US has ten times our population, but even taking that into account, their murder rate is something like three times ours. Gun murder is even higher, but as has been pointed out, that probably isn't due to the availability of guns. We have plenty of guns in Canada, and I think that the number of firearms compares roughly with that in the US.

The difference is that more people in the US kill their relatives and neighbors, and more of them do it with guns. There is some cultural difference that causes this, but I think the evidence shows that if you could magically remove all guns on the continent, the murder rate probably wouldn't change much. There would just be a large increase in knifings, and people would start agitating to register knives.

Note that I am not a gun nut. You can usually tell a gun nut: they'll often claim that carrying concealed firearms lowers crime.

Easy said...

I too have mixed feelings about guns. I was certain that it was the prevalance of guns here in the US that was responsible for all of the violence, but then in his movie Bowling For Columbine Michael Moore points out that guns are just as prevalant in Canada, and their gun related homicide rate is very small in comparison with the US.

So I have to conclude that it's not the guns, it's us.

As for your question...I wouldn't take my 8 year old on a hunting trip, but then I wouldn't go on one in the first place.

layman said...

I always equate guns with PitBulls. Responsible ownership is the answer. Education is the first step to responsible ownership. I think much of the hype and glorification attached to guns and biting dogs come from adults and not children. It's the adults that need educating. In my contacts with young people, I found them to be much more level headed than we are. Adults that teach children to kill should be informed of the consequences of their actions.

Pieces of Me said...

Hey! Ugh I dont know about hubs wants to teach our daughter to shoot because he believes that accidents happen from those who dont know what they are doing and that if we teach her how to use one correctly and explain to her what can happen and what is appropriate that we are doing the best thing. I personally am afraid of guns...I think it is ridiculous to have something that could take another's life in a second. That being said I have never touched a gun but I eat the meat from whatever my hubs kills with his gun. I dont know what to say about guns besides that they should be used for hunting or for protection...thats about it...I think it is ridiculous to give a child a gun but thats just my opion!

Plumkrazzee said...

If you aren't an avid hunter, you shouldn't own a gun. If your child isn't 13 years old, they shouldn't be hunting with you. I grew up in a house, with a loaded gun in the bedroom closet...never cared, never touched it, but that was 30 years ago. Things have shifted, times have changed. Now that i'm a parent, I cannot even fathom having a gun anywhere near my son....loaded or otherwise.

Chatty said...

I am a avid gun hater. yes, I know guns don't kill people, people kill people.....but it's not nice to hate people. Even for me. I just don't approve of them and even if one were to save my life someday, I'd thank it and still not approve.

Plain Jane said...

I believe in the right to bear arms with the proper documents filed and all that. I believe it's a parents responsiblity and right to decide what is best for their child's education - including hunting.

I certainly would never go hunting by choice, but I think it's up to the family.

Anonymous said...

What got me about this article was that this was an 8 year old little girl. My daughter is 7 1/2 and if I make a joke about kicking a pigeon out of my way she gets mad at me. Little girls love animals and I just can't even imagine what kind of trauma my daughter would go through just witnessing something like that, never mind being responsible for it.

I have pretty firm views on guns and gun control but aside from that...what kind of little girl wants to use a gun and shoot...anything??

Jodie said...

What an interesting story! It always shocks us when we see something so out of the norm. Like Kathy said,

"what kind of little girl wants to use a gun and shoot...anything??"

As much as I was a typically little girl that enjoyed dressing up and playing with Barbie dolls, I think it's great that we now live in a society where little girls have opportunities to do things such as hunting and sports. Gender is hardly the issue here.

I am not an advocate for gun use, but I am an advocate for gun education. I agree with most of the comments here that if we educate are children as well as adults about gun safety and take the mystery out of this fairly common place item.

I used to be very afraid of guns (especially as a child) but a few years ago I did some very safe target practice with a few. After this I no longer felt at such odds with a gun, but I also didn't feel overly confident so that I would regard it without care. Rather I felt like I had come to a sort of respect with how to handle a weapon.

I'm not going to assume that this particular child was well educated in gun safety, but chances are there are this child knows more than the average adult.

I could never go out and kill another living creature, but I'm glad that I have the freedom to make that choice on my own.

Trish said...

I'm with you, Carmi. I wouldn't let my eight-year-old son handle one (even though he's aces with a light saber!).

Seriously, it's just my choice.

I truly believe that guns should ONLY be used to blow out the tires of the morons who cut out in front of us putting our lives in danger while they're talking on their cell phones! (nothing personal, anyone).

P.s. Thanks for visiting my blog recently!

glockster17 said...

Here is my opinion.
First let me state that I am an advocate for the second amendment. I believe whole heartedly in the right to bear amrs. After all is said and done people are good or bad despite the possesion of an inanimate object. There was murder and crime even before there guns, just read the book of Genesis.
I am gun owner and I have a conceled carry permit for my state of residence, this is not something I take lightly and I feel many people, even "Gun People" are not properly educated on this matter.
Education is key! MY son recieved his firt rifle at 5 years old. It was a .bb gun. This was his training platform. Once all safety rules had been learned and became habit, then he recieved a .22 rifle. This was approximatley a year later and he was only allowed to shoot with strict adult supervision. The years have passed, he is now 14 years old and the owner of 8 guns. Before you get upset let me tell you this kid ia a very responsible young man. He is a first degree blackbelt and has for several years now been involved with teaching this art to younger children and has grown into a very caring person.
I have seen for myself the difference in kids who have some understanding of firearms and those who do not. My son had a friend a few years ago who's parents were not gun owners or fans of guns at all. One day this boy was at my house with my son and another friend (one who's father is a shooter) playing. I had a few magazines out on the coffee table that I had read some gun articles in and when this kid saw those picts. on the covers he got very excited, no longer wanting to play video games he snatched up the mags. and started thumbing through them with great vigor. He asked questions, pointed out picts., and became rather weird about the whole thing. The other two boys could have cared less but this one was amped! I took the mags. removed them from the room and thought to myself,"This is the kind of kid you would never want to find a gun." He had no experience, knowledge or education on the matter and seemed to find the whole thing irresistable.
I think the other two were sastified with the experience they did have and just wanted to play the video games. They were aware of guns and the potential they have for damage. They were more educated.
One hunting trip can be a very good learning experience, especaily when you see the power and unchangable consequences that a bullet has on it's target. My son learned the first time he witnessed an animal shot what a bullet can do and he has always been told that there are no second chances with firearms saftey.
Education and responsible owner ship are key. All the guns in this house are either in the safe, on my person or in direct line of my sight.
If this is such an epedemic then we need public education, not more laws. There are already 20,000 of them on the books and they don't help everything.
If you are concerned about your child and gun safety please take the time to learn for yourself and teach your children. The National Rifle Association offers classes and literature that can assist you with this.
Congrats to that girl on her first bear!!