In my little town about 30 miles outside of Rome there was a carnival. They were celebrating the patron saint or some political holiday, but it was just like what you have in the States. There were kiosks with ring-toss games, dart throwing, a merry-go-round, bumper cars, all the usual. I was walking through the place holding my 7-year-old boy’s hand when we looked to the left and both of us saw the shooting gallery. Alessio practically let out a yelp for joy, pulling me by the hand in that direction . . .

I considered the next move on my part. Pulling him away from the evil guns might make them even more attractive, although that seemed unlikely given the level of his enthusiasm. Now, a little background is that he’d had almost no exposure to toy guns and none at all to real guns.I never prohibited them in our house but we never bought any either. Some of his little friends have surely had them and he’s seen some on TV, although he’s not too into that, so the exposure was about as minimal as it could be. For a kid with so little experience with guns to be as excited as he was to get his hands on one, shocked me a little or more than a little.

As we approached the booth, I saw a rifle on one side and a handgun, like a 9mm on the other. They were attached to something with cables. They were both very realistic looking, as it turned out, airsoft guns with the CO-2 cartridge that shoot those yellow plastic pellets a little bigger than a BB. At least that’s what I figured they were.

Alessio unhesitatingly picked up the handgun, immediately putting his finger on the trigger. I’m laughing right now recalling my reaction. I wondered, where in the hell did he learn that from, is it innate?

I quickly took control of the gun which he had pulled back close to his chest aiming at the ceiling at about a 45 degree angle. I thought, kind-of laughing to myself at the absurdity of it, OK now is the moment to teach him some gun safety. I’m flexible, right?

I showed him how to take his finger off the trigger and extend it along the gun outside the trigger guard, and I told him never point the gun at anything but the target. I repeated those two points, released my grip on the gun and told him to go ahead.

He fired three or four shots holding the gun back almost to his chest when I said wait a minute and physically extended his arm for him. I placed his left hand on the gun to steady it and told him to continue. From there he hit the targets, soda cans they were, with almost every pellet and won a prize.

Reflecting back on it, I’ve had a few thoughts . . .

The plastic pellets actually put holes in the coke cans after enough hits. How dangerous those air soft guns are, and how realistic looking. They need to be controlled exactly like real firearms. That was one thought. The other was about my boy and how can I best teach him to not get hurt with guns in the future, and I mean get hurt in the widest possible sense. Obviously, never addressing the subject and hoping it never comes up won’t get it. We live in the real world and he’s definitely going to run into guns throughout his growing-up life.

The truth is I’m at a loss. I don’t have a clear plan on how to teach him the things he needs to know without increasing the mystique and fascination and attraction that are inherent in the using of guns. What do you think? Any ideas? I don’t necessarily want him to be a gun control enthusiast when he grows up, which is what I consider myself, but I certainly wouldn’t want him to be enthusiastic in the other direction.

[Click here for mikeb302000’s gun control blog]

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45 Responses to Question of the Day [via Mikeb30200]: How Does a Gun Control Advocate Teach His Kid About Guns?

  1. While I certainly don’t agree with your views, I appreciate that you are raising your son to have his own opinions, and that you gave him some safety instruction with the pellet gun.

    • “…but I certainly wouldn’t want him to be enthusiastic in the other direction.”

      I disagree. He wants to influence his sons views in a manner that his son won’t even know it. His ultimate goal is to STOP his son from having his own views. He states that he doesn’t want to increase the mystique or fascination with them so that he doesn’t want to learn more about them or grow to like them, and he wants our help to do it. I’m refraining from responding to this post by this overbearing, deceitful, manipulative, control freak directly because it will most likely be deleted anyway.

      • Derek, I’m very sorry you see me as an “overbearing, deceitful, manipulative, control freak,” but I’m just trying to do the best I can.

        I thought the post offered a heart-felt description of what I see as a dilemma in my life. I’m not sure what you saw in it, or binary Tim either.

  2. When my dad (by no means a firearms enthusiast) taught me gun safety, the biggest thing he emphasized was responsibility. If I ever let my BB gun’s muzzle swing somewhere it wasn’t supposed to be, I lost my shooting privileges for a long time.

    Take him to the range a couple times and work on olympic style air or .22 rifle shooting. It teaches all of the core elements of safe gun handling, without any of the immediate self defense or movie/game style glamorization that are often associated with center fire handguns. Rent a bolt action .22 so he’s thinking about every shot instead of just blasting off down range. From there he’ll make up his own mind whether he thinks they’re an enjoyable hobby or something that should be controlled. But in any case, he will learn safety, and putting fine holes in paper is about as far removed from violence as firearms can get.

    • My dad was also VERY anti-gun.

      We lived in Chevy Chase, MD, at the time of the King assassination riots in DC. My dad had to close his store in downtown DC (8th and E Street NW) early that day and follow the police proscribed evacuation route north on 16th
      street, past Walter Reed, and then turn left on East-West Highway (not his normal route). He could see and smell the smoke rising from the 14th street corridor, only 2 blocks east.

      Upon arriving home, he was visibly shaken, and very concerned about family safety, as we lived just a few yards from the DC line. Even though he had previously refused to go to the range with me, and even objected to me
      being on my high school and college rifle teams, he humbly asked to borrow my M-1 carbine and several loaded magazines. A WWII veteran (tech sergeant), he was familiar with the carbine.

      The next several days and nights he had the carbine nearby, only returning it to me after the rioting had subsided and the national guard patrolled the streets across the DC line.

      Upon returning it, he did not say “thanks” or indicate any other form of direct gratitude, but in his way, telling me to be careful with it was his minimal way of showing some gratitude.

      In the short time between then and his death in early 1971, he continued his anti-gun tirade every time the news told of a murder or gun-crime, but never again brought up his perceived need to have that M-1 carbine at his time during a period of social uncertainty.

  3. Let him do what he wants. Guns are fun, and it’s a great father-son activity.

    My short story: I was a kid who loved guns. My parents could try and keep toy ones out of my hand but they would ultimately fail. If I couldn’t buy it, I would build it from Kinex or Legos. My favorite toy gun was a yellow 1911 water pistol. I owned two of them and I loved running around holding both and killing imaginary bad guys. I also built an awesome futuristic bullpup rifle out of kinex and played out my wildest sci-fi fantasies with that.

    Anyways… my parents weren’t much for guns… which is weird since they came from 1980s Poland when the Gov’t was literally boot stomping everyone. Heck, they even had a smoke grenade ‘accidentally’ shot into their apartment. The only guns they owned here in the USA was a S&W29 “Dirty Harry” revolver and a Browning A5. We went shooting once as a kid, but never again since then.

    When I graduated college (engineering) I got my first pistol (1911), shotgun (870), .22 rifle (Marlin 780), AR-15 (stag-1), and so on… I loved it. I also managed to re-ignite my dad’s love of guns to my mother’s chagrin.

    Anyways, even though you’re an anti-gun nut who hates freedom, maybe you should put that aside and become a gun-nut and build an awesome relationship with your son. Maybe he will grow up and be a soldier, or a cop, or a competition shooter, or just a fine upstanding gentleman with a lot of guns and a lust for more. It’s a healthy and bonding relationship that also builds a lot of useful skills that can be applied to home defense, and even hunting. If not, just developing the mental aptitude to be a decent shot (which isn’t always easy to do).

    Come on over to the darkside mike… it’s a lot of fun. And your son will really enjoy it and like you more for it. I mean, what kid doesn’t love to play with guns (in both an imaginary setting, and a realistic one with adult supervision and proper education).

  4. Good on you for teaching him trigger and muzzle control. And good on ya for trying to remove the mystique of firearms. As any parent can surely tell you, telling a child no only makes it that much more attractive.

  5. My parents told me that guns WOULD kill me if I touched them while unsupervised. That and their loud noise kept me away from them until I was about 10. At which time they taught me gun safety and I had unlimited access to many firearms.

  6. I’m still dusting myself off because I just fell out of my chair laughing after I read that Mikeb’s son is a GUN LOVER. He sounds like a very bright young man and Mikeb should be very proud.

  7. Summary: Guns are dangerous. Airsoft is dangerous. All sharp corners should be padded and everyone should wear helmets.

    Next slide.

  8. This is indeed a fascinating post. I have a 2 ½ yrd old and the other day he was running around with a paper-towel tube making shooting noises. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was “shooting Monsters”. (what is he watching at Daycare?)
    I admit I was a little surprised at this behavior. It is indeed amazing what kids can absorb. I own many guns, and I go shooting probably 8 or 10 times a year, but my son is 2 and half, and we don’t watch a lot of violent TV, and he certainly doesn’t.
    As to one of Mikeb’s questions “…is it Innate?” (kids, young boys in particular, using toys to play guns) I have a feeling that it IS innate. Little boys are drawn to weapons. Have you seen the toy aisle at Wal-Mart? It’s a veritable Toy Armory…tanks, rifles, shotguns, pistols, fighter planes, battleships, soldiers, robots, etc
    Once I would have ascribed this sort of skew to Nurture, not Nature, and I am sure that the Nurture part of the equation has some influence, but I am more and more convinced that Nature has more to do with it that some folks might believe.
    As for what Mikeb should do about his son’s interest in guns…Well, I doubt that he is going to like my advice, but I would say take him shooting. It may or may not sate his curiosity, but it Will give him an appreciation for the power and responsibility that go with guns. When I was about 4yrs old, my Dad took my older brother and I out back and demonstrated what a 22lr rifle could do to a rotten pumpkin. The results were spectacular and very much enlightening. The lesson of the day was simple “Guns are NOT TOYS, and even a relatively small one is lethal.”
    As a result of this lesson (and others of course), my brother and I never played with real guns. We did have toy guns and we played with those. The real guns were respected and used responsibly (and under Mom and Dad’s supervision until we were basically out of the house).
    No matter what your opinion on Politics are, guns are a fact of life. Teach your kids the basics of gun safety for the same reasons you teach them to wear a seatbelt, wear their bike helmets, look both ways when crossing the street.
    MikeB worries about how to teach his son the things he needs without “…without increasing the mystique and fascination and attraction that are inherent in the using of guns.” . Well, you are reading a gun forum. Guns ARE interesting. But if you teach him the boring realities of gun safety, correct handling, knowing your backstop, Finger off the trigger, etc etc, it will seem more like the tool that it is than the Phallic Enhancer that Hollywood treats it as.

  9. Mike, good for you for not flipping out. Guns are powerful tools — they are to be treated the way you treat knives or saws. But with an average amount of intelligence and common sense, they are no more dangerous.

    It is a parent’s job to instill morality in their children. All you can do is make your case, set your rules and pray. Kids sense irrationality and b-s. They’re also built for curiosity. What would you do if someone told you, “I can’t tell you why, but DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!!!!”

    As you found, you can’t stop them from encountering firearms. A lot of people hate fossil fuels, but they have to know how to pump gas. I hate ironing, but my kids are going to learn how to use one so: 1) they look smart when they need to; 2) they don’t burn the house down.

  10. Two men from the Uk reacted almost the same way when I took them to a range for the first time. Maybe the use of firearms by humans is a lot more natural than we thought,

  11. Mikey, although I trust you about as much as I would trust a pit viper with a toothache, I’ll take the question at face value and treat you as I would an actual human being.

    At 7, the kid is too young for airsoft or CO2 guns. If he’s ready to shoot, and I’m not sure that a 7 YO should be shooting anything, it should be with a .22 rifle. Yeah, it sounds counterintuitive, but it isn’t.

    The faux-guns are too much like toys. I know they aren’t toys, but kids don’t. If children don’t take take them seriously, then as a result they won’t be building life-saving habits. On the other hand, the .22 rifle is real. Kids instinctively know it’s real. It has enough light recoil to keep kids aware, but not more than they can handle. It goes bang, which also gets their attention. A single shot, bolt action .22 is the finest training aid ever devised to teach safety, marksmanship and good gun-handling habits.

    The downside for you, “big” mikey, is that when he’s ready, shooting is going to be fun for little mikey. Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to go over very well in your household. You’re better off poisoning his little mind while you can.

    • thanks for the laughs and the good advice. That’s interesting that the .22 might be better for a young kid than the air soft “toys.” It makes sense.

      My very first exposure was in summer camp with the .22 rifles at 11 and 12 years of age. Well, I had lots of toy guns before that.

      And, look, I turned out OK.

      • And, look, I turned out OK.

        Now it’s my turn to thank you for a good laugh.

        BTW, as the original little Ralphie, I wanted a Daisy Red Ryder air rifle for my 12th birthday, but my mother said that I’d shoot someone’s eye out. My father, a sage old coot, agreed and bought me a .22 instead, saying that I would never handle it like a toy. He was right. It’s amazing that the older I got, the smarter he got.

    • Yep… My son started shooting at 8 years old with his own single-shot bolt-action .22LR rifle (Cricket). He’s 10 y.o. now and has a Ruger 10 / 22, which he loves. My 7 y.o. daughter is now asking for her own pink (of course) .22LR rifle. Will probably wait another year for her. Or not. (borrowing from RF). 🙂

  12. Mike, in your situation, I would definitely begin by using something like the Eddie Eagle program from the NRA: http://www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie/ . It’s designed to teach children to respect firearms and what to do if they ever encounter one. From there you might want to discuss the rules of handling a firearm: http://thefiringline.com/Misc/safetyrules.html .

    After that, comes the tougher part. Deciding if/when you want to possibly take him to shoot an air rifle/.22 rifle. Also it might be good to discuss with your son what you believe about guns and why.

  13. Guns aren’t evil. They are an inanimate object. Like a rock. What will warp your child is having him grow up seeing you push your beliefs and restrictions on other people’s lifestyle because it conflicts with your own. Just like crazy anti-smoking a-holes. I don’t smoke, but that doesn’t give me a right to shit all over people who choose to. Same with gun control. You don’t like them, yet you shit all over everyone who does. This behavior is way more poisonous than any inanimate object will ever be.

    • First of all, what I do is not shitting all over anybody. I express my opinions in places where they are of interest. Unless my 7-year-old suddenly starts reading the gun blogs, he’s not going to know the first thing about my opinions. I don’t know what you picture about me, but I’m actually not ranting at the dinner table every night to my family about these things. I save that for you guys.

      The reference to “evil” guns was tongue in cheek. Oddly, after about twenty comments you’re the only one who had a problem with that.

      Lighten up, man.

      • Mike – while you obviously don’t see yourself that way – you do present yourself in a manner that is interpreted that way by pro-gunners. Now perspective should not be synonymous with truth, but there is a reason that perspectivalism is one of the tools used in the philosophy of how knowledge is acquired.

        In certain ways, we bear some responsibility for the perspectives of others. Read that again – I said “some” and not “all.”

        You are willing to ask pro-gunners for some advice which I think points to your maturity. Are you mature enough to consider how you present yourself here and how that steers our perspective of you?

  14. I would start with buying him a bb rifle that shoots bb similar to the ones at the parade. Kids will move on to the next best thing once they do something for too long. It will give you and him a really good time top bond and also give you a better feel for where he’s going with this new found passion for the shooting sports, and I say so cause even tho you believe he has an interest in guns I think its not the guns that he seeks, but the challenge of shooting and hitting a target.

  15. Congratulations. For an anti-gun parent you have now taken the 1st step at keeping your child from any future accident with a firearm. A little more of this and you might change your stance on not teaching gun safety in schools.

    What do you think? Any ideas? I don’t necessarily want him to be a gun control enthusiast when he grows up, which is what I consider myself, but I certainly wouldn’t want him to be enthusiastic in the other direction.

    I think you’ve got yourself a real problem here. The more you push, the more likely Alessio will explore and question the other direction. Whatever you do will no doubt send a confusing mixed message with regards to your fear of dangerous tools and the majority of people who consider the safe responsible use of firearms as normal. You may inadvertently push him into developing a lifelong hobby and passion. Every boy becomes a man with their own opinions. You should either stay neutral on the topic to not pique his interest, or embrace the idea that your kid’s interests will not always parallel to your own. Love him for who he becomes; not whom you wish him to be.

  16. First, congratulations MikeB on this post. I have to say I much prefer the to read your posts about the human side of things, than that of the other bloggers that post on your site.

    Secondly, I am curious about one thing. Previously, you had accused myself and other commentors on your site of “child abuse” for teaching our kids about gun safety. Do you now back down from your previous statements, or are you yourself guilty of this atrocity against your son? As you can tell, that statement never sat very well with me.

    • yes I remember it well.

      I think the video which prompted that, I’ll admit, over-the-top comment on my part, was about a very small kid about like my boy at a shooting range really getting into it.

      I told you how my thing happened last week.

      I don’t know if you can equate the two. Maybe they’re different degrees on the same scale, I’m not sure. But, no, I’m not ready to change my opinion on teaching kids about guns or even about teaching kids about gun safety in school. I’m not even sure if this incident with my kid is the beginning of my changing or opening up to anything. We’ll see.

      I will say this. I’m sorry I made that “child abuse” crack that time, or maybe there were several mentions of it. It was purposely provocative and unnecessarily inflammatory. Please accept my apology for that and try to forget the couple of words that offended you so, and understand what I’m saying.

  17. Well mike, glad you asked.

    I have two sons, and the older one was always asking about my guns and talking about taking them and shooting “bad guys”. They are of course always locked (in real safes, not sheetmetal lickboxes) up or on my hip, so he never could if he wanted to. But the fact that he kept talking about it bothered me, he is 4. So, a few months ago I read a bunch of suggestions on the web, and convinced the wife to just play along which was tough for her because she does not like guns. What I did worked, my son almost never talks about the guns anymore. Even when I am cleaning or repairing the guns he is not interested anymore, whereas before he would stand there and ask question after question. So this is what I did.

    I got most of my guns out and placed them on a table in the back yard on a nice sunny day. I made sure none of them were loaded, and that no bullets where anywhere around. Then I made sure none of them were loaded a second time. Then I covered them with a blanket and brought my boy and my wife out to the table.

    He asked what was under the blanket right away and I told him I would show him in a bit but we needed to talk about something first. Then I asked him what he thought would be the right thing to do if he ever saw a gun. He answered almost good with “I would come and get you so we can put bullets in it and shoot it” I was glad getting me was the first thing, but didn’t like the answer enough to call it quits. So I explained to him that “guns are very dangerous and they will kill people so dead that they can’t come back to life”. I used those words because my grandmother recently passed away and his understanding is she is dead and not comming back to life. I then went through what i think is the eddie eagle dialogue of explaining if he saw a gun he needed to “STOP! Don’t touch it. Tell an adult.” We went through that over and over, my wife even made it into a song.

    Then I explained to him that if he ever wanted to touch one of my guns all he had to do was come get me and tell me he wants to touch one. And at this point I pulled the blanket off the guns so he could see them. I pointed out that all the guns were safely pointing towards the hill, and that they had to always point towards the hill while he held them. Then I picked up one of my handguns and pointed out two additional rules. First, no putting his hand or any other part of his body between the muzzle and the hill. Second, he could touch anything on the gun except the trigger.

    Then I asked him what to do if he saw a gun, he replied “Stop, don’t touch it, tell an adult.” And asked him which gun he wanted to hold first. He chose my glock 22, so i picked it up, verified there was nothing in the chamber and the it did not have a magazine while explaining to him that was what I was doing. Everytime he wanted to change guns I asked him what to do if he saw a gun and after he answered I showed him how I was checking to make sure it was unloaded. He told me that we had to keep pointing it at the hill even though it isn’t loaded because it is still dangerous, which made me proud.

    For a few days after that he would ask to hold a gun, and I would let him after making him tell me what to do if he saw a gun and then going through taking it somewhere we could point it at something safe, like the hill in the backyard, and making sure it was unloaded.

    After about a week, he told me matter of factly that guns are boring and has never asked to see them or shown any interest in them since. He doesn’t even play with his nerf guns anymore (he has moved on to swords lol).

    To test, and to show off, while we were visiting my brother recently I had my brother leave one of his unloaded guns out. His son who is slightly older than my son picked it up almost imediatly. My son told him “Stop, don’t touch it” and came running to tell us.

    So it does work.

    I am not sure how you could make this work mike, since I believe you don’t have any guns in the house, but perhaps you could get a pellet gun (still a gun) and use it for this purpose.

    To answer your question about airsoft being dangerous, most of them are not. They all have the FPS clearly written on the box, and I think less than 300FPS is really safe. The problem is the higher the FPS the more accurate the airsoft gun, so at shooting galleries they tend to use the higher FPS guns. Also you said it was a CO2 powered gun, the CO2 powered ones are typically much higher power than the standard more common spring loaded airsoft guns with a typical CO2 gun having around 600fps and a typical spring loaded one comming in at about 280fps. at 600fps the can leave welts if hit at close range, and could cause damage if hit in the eye, but it does not really get dangerous untill you get above 800fps and use heaver rounds than the plastic BBs. Also, unless you saw one of the pellets penetrate a can, don’t believe it happened, lots of times shooting booths will shoot up the can with real metal BBs or pellets to give them the look in order to add a sense of danger.

    Hope this helps.

  18. Mike, send him here. TTAG can teach proper respect for firearms from our point of view, you can teach him how “evil” firearms are, and when he is 18 he’ll make up his own mind. I am NOT being sarcastic.

  19. Its refreshing to see people with vastly different views having a intelligent discussion.

    It was even more excellent to hear MikeB own up to a badly worded/placed comment and apologize for it. Honestly and personal honor count for a lot (with me , and with a lot of the folks that read sites like this) and it takes a more mature person to admit when they have said the wrong thing.

  20. Not a parent, but I would tell you to teach him about gun safety and their general function. It’s just a good general life skill and he may be able to save someone’s life by preventing a tragic accident. Furthermore, it gives him options: he may end up enjoying guns and really liking them (my personal favorite), he may end up like Magoo, someone how loves hunting and outdoors who isn’t into the whole self-defense thing, or he may end up hating guns and at least he will sound informed when he talks about them (instead of saying things like barrel shrouds are shoulder things that go up).

  21. Probably the best lessons for a small kid regarding guns can be conveyed through the Eddie Eagle program.

    http://www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie/

    Essentially program drills kids on what to do if they should run across a gun “in the wild”. Essentially, “Stop, Don’t Touch, Leave the Area, Tell and Adult!” The Eddie Eagle rhetoric was also applied in our household to any kind of power tool or object with a motor, and anything that looked like drugs or alcohol.

    A child should know beyond doubt that he/she is NOT to touch any gun without express permission from you as the parent. This includes bb guns, pellet guns, and airsoft guns, or anything that can cause any damage. That is not to say it is reasonable to prevent a child from learning marksmanship by plinking with airguns under supervision, or to prevent an older child from playing airsoft or paintball with proper equipment. The child should know that any projectile launcher must be handled keeping in mind the basic rules of gun safety:

    http://www.nrahq.org/education/guide.asp

    Really it is important for the child not to have any fantastical ideas about guns if you want them to view them for what they are. Bestowing esoteric human qualities on a gun like “evil” is irrational and could lead to confusion later in life regarding any other dangerous or powerful technologies.

    If a kid is indoctrinated to fear guns it implicitly conveys the idea that it may be acceptable to use guns to convey fear to others. You see this in street culture all of the time.

    If you want the kid to respect the power and potential danger of a gun and not have any irrational or fantastical or perverted ideas about them, then expose the kid to the genuinely positive context of firearms, marksmanship, technology, defense, protection. Place this in juxtaposition with misuses and negative contexts. You need to explain the dos and the don’ts, what is acceptable, what is not acceptable. Kids by their very nature are open minded enough not to buy the idea that something can be completely “evil”, particularly inanimate objects with which great fun can be had.

    In the town I grew up in, by the time we were all about 9 or 10 it was unthinkable to “misuse” a gun. If you touched your bb gun when someone was ahead of the informal firing line or god forbid “lasered” someone with a bb gun it was pretty much the most awful and embarrassing thing you could do socially. All the kids would think you were irresponsible (Because you were). That is a lesson learned.

    It was taken this way because at that point we already had a sense of responsibility instilled in us regarding guns. That sense of responsibility is what keeps you safe and rational.

    I know you are taken to be an antagonist around these parts but I truly, deeply, and genuinely hope this information and perspective is useful to you in figuring out how to instill gun safety, discipline, and responsibility in your kid.

    -D

  22. I hardly ever comment but I wanted to applaud the way you handled the situation mikeb. Explaining safety and allowing your son to explore the airsoft guns was the right way to do things IMO.

    My dad (while not against gun ownership) never owned a gun, so I never learned gun safety from him. I learned gun safety from my time in the Boy Scouts. Every year at camp they’d have a marksmanship section, first with single shot BB guns, then with .22 rifles. If the instructors saw any hint of unsafe behavior, said unsafe boy had shooting privileges taken away for the week. I don’t recall anyone ever breaking the rules as noone wanted to miss out on what was (far and away) the “coolest” section of summer camp. I don’t know if you have any organizations like that available to you and your son but the thing I’d suggest is: explain gun safety in earnest, use shooting as a treat, and make it clear that any breaking of the safety rules = no shooting for a very long time. That’s just my two cents tho, take it or leave it.

  23. Mikeb30200:

    You were right to do safety first. Later expand your instruction to proper posture, grip, windage and elevation, breathing, etc.

    Also, pick the right time to warn him about people out there who are totally ignorant about guns. Make sure he is careful around their kids.

  24. Teach him what they teach the US Navy SEALs:
    1. Consider all weapons loaded all the time.
    2. Never point a weapon at anything you don’t want to point a bullet through.
    3. Never put your finger on the trigger unless you want to shoot.
    4. Know your target and know what’s behind it.

  25. Mike,

    As the father of a 13-year-old girl, I can relate to your situation. Since we’re on opposite sides of the gun ownership debate, I can also see your dilemma. And as a pro-gun guy, I have to admit, I am enjoying a delicious slice of irony here.

    Having gotten that out of the way, I think you handled everything in exactly the right way with your son. I’m impressed. Moving forward, I have to admit that the thought has crossed my mind, that you may find you learn a lot from your son, and it may well change or at least moderate your views on guns, as you see the world through your son’s eyes. I know I’ve learned a LOT from my daughter in that respect. And it sounds as if you’re not tone-deaf to that. Good.

    I like what others have recommended about a .22 bolt-action. I’d like to add, it’s also an opportunity for you to teach him gun safety around the home (locked storage) as well as respect for limits (no using the gun on your own until you’re older). I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, but it bears mention.

    When he’s older, I think you might be able to have some interesting discussions with him (in the Socratic sense) when you ask him questions like “How do you think a handgun is different from a rifle?” Or “How do you think you’d feel if you had to make a choice to defend our home when it might mean shooting a person?” Or perhaps, “Do you think guns are dangerous for people to own if they are as well-trained with them as you are?”

    I’m betting that this will be an educational exercise for BOTH of you. And it will allow you to discuss your feelings about guns in a way that he can challenge, and employ logic and reason to debate you (if you do indeed plan to play fair, and as a dad, I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt on this one, because we always want the best for our kids, even if it means seeing past our personal bias and prejudices).

    Good luck. For my family, I’ve done my best to teach my daughter gun safety, and instill in her a healthy respect for all guns, while demystifying them and endeavoring to make her more comfortable with them. She’s actually a pretty good shot with her .22. (Still working on the handgun thing with her. Right now, she’s as comfortable with the idea of shooting a handgun as she would be handling a brown recluse spider.)

    I think I can speak for the rest of the TTAG Armed Intelligentsia, when I say that we’d love to hear more about you and your son’s education/exploration of guns.

    Good luck!

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  27. People are anti gun for many reasons. Some are anti gun for themselves and thier own family, others are anti gun because of one parent – in my family’s case my mother. My father would tell us about guns, explain about them, but would never think to take us shooting, he was just that cheap.
    I feel that a parent should do something to show a child/children what guns are. Since I knew very little about them, I did buy the largest BB long gun made for children, I di not want them out with it doing damage. They became great shots, but I would not have video games like grand theft auto in the house and did not want them shooting at each other with paint balls.

    I do not think that young teens are ready to be taught to shoot at each other – this is my personal opinion and I still feel that way.

    Just because someone is anti gun, doesn’t mean he wants you to give yours up. It doesn’t mean you are a protestor or that you want Hillary to be president.
    I used to drink and did not trust myself to have a cool head in a bad situation. I am sure that others have other reasons, or should have. That is personal responsability.

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