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]