Official TTAG gun rights denier Mikeb302000 finally commented on my article describing the first stages of teaching grandchild Five and Six how to shoot. Thanks Mike, I was starting to feel a bit left out. In the article I described how I focus on safety and tell the boys they have to memorize and recite the Four Rules of Firearms Safety as a condition of being able to shoot with Grandpa. But then Mike wrote…
I think it’s a big mistake to teach kids that young the 4 Rules and expect them to git (sic) it. That’s asking for trouble. I suppose if they NEVER have unsupervised access to the guns, and ALWAYS use them under the proper guidance, there’s no harm. But, I’m afraid many people put too much responsibility and too high expectations on the kids.
Mike posits that knowledge of the Four Rules is troublesome unless kids only have supervised access to firearms. I actually think Mike’s sentence is logically incoherent, but what I derive from the statement is that Mike misunderstands the purpose of the Four Rules and their place in gun culture.
I anticipate that my boys will inevitably come across a firearm without adult supervision. A friend may show them their daddy’s gun. My friends sure did. A buddy and I were snooping around and found a .38 pistol of some sort. He dared me to pick it up. I did and he said, “don’t point it at me.” And I didn’t. Had I not been exposed to the Four Rules and their ramifications, it may not have occurred to me to be mindful of where the muzzle was pointing.
I didn’t point it at him because as a Cub Scout, we had been introduced to the Four Rules at a pack meeting. The lecture I received in a group is not unlike the one I gave my boys, and the one I give to all my grandchildren as they come of age.
The first line of defense is to tell kids not to touch a weapon unless a family member or other appropriate adult allows them. That may fail some day, children being children. When my sons or grandsons are looking down at a shiny weapon, I fully expect a little tow-headed devil to pop up on their left shoulder and say “go on…touch it!”
I hope he would resist that temptation and ask his friend to put it away or – better yet – leave. Failing that, I want him to know the Four Rules and their importance. The Four Rules are ideally meant to prevent negligent discharges, but their layered effect also serves to mitigate the effect of a negligent discharge. I at least want a negligent discharge to be an embarrassing story they tell their buddies 30 years later. Not a tragedy they’ll always have to live with.
When it comes to the dangers of life, particularly good things that are dangerous, we parents have before us the choice of quarantine, inoculation or letting children “decide for themselves.” I think the last option is the worst because children are basically barbarians, ignorant of the hazards of life and prone to foolishness.
Leaving them to learn from other ignorant, foolish barbarians is negligent. Quarantine will only work so long as the child goes unexposed. Inoculation, though, means an empty hole where knowledge belongs is filled with wisdom from their family and community. We choose to fill these holes intentionally and on our own timetable rather than to leave them defenseless.