A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Teaching a Child To Shoot

I was asked recently "Why teach a child to shoot?" Why is a question that does not come to my mind frequently. To me, it is kind of like asking why we would teach our children to use the stove, a can opener, telephone or a shovel. Guns are not evil things, and the danger that is associated with them is not inherent in the gun. It is within the person wielding the gun.

I believe that if guns are to be present in a family, the children should be taught to shoot. Each child reaches the maturity level necessary at different times, as all children are different. Click to enlargeThe average time usually occurs around age seven, when the child reaches Erikson's industry vs. inferiority conflict. This stage, often called the Latency, is a time when we are capable of learning and accomplishing numerous new complex skills and knowledge. The skills and values learned at this time often stay with the person throughout their life, and form the foundation of their personality in adulthood. Many competent shooters, of all ages relate being taught to shoot by a father or uncle at age seven or eight.

But why shooting? Shooting accurately is a task that demands concentration and dedication unmatched in many endeavors. Holes in targets that spread across the surface or clump together like clover leaves on a bulls eye is instant, nonjudgmental evidence of whether the shooter is applying what they have learned. Other sports do not have this no error aspect. In basketball, there is always another shot. In football another down. Baseball has another inning. In most sports, scores are accumulated by success. In shooting, scores are tabulated by failures. There are lessons to be learned from that.

Even though I am not a hunter, I have to consider the values instilled in a child through hunting. The quietness necessary to get close enough to game is lost on many children. The one chance or go hungry aspect of hunting, especially as referred to by Rufus Hussey introduces the child to the realities of the adult world. Do your job right, and you will be fed. Continue to do it wrong, and you will go hungry....... Or get on public assistance.

So why teach a child to shoot? If done successfully, shooting provides the child with demonstrative evidence of their competence at a skill that elevates them above the common man. Competence in shooting is not measured by time spent, rounds down range, or firearms owned. It is measured by holes in targets. A ten year old child, competent with his rifle, can best a thirty year old man who is not. Clickto enlargeThe result is self esteem and confidence in oneself. That is the real reason to teach a child to shoot, whether it is plinking at tin cans, or shooting competitively.

There are those who say that if there are going to be guns in the home, they should be locked away from children. Guns should be secured when not in use or under adult control. Children do not all have equal levels of maturity, and parents will often be surprised at what a child does when the child is alone with friends. Teaching the child to shoot removes the lure of the taboo from the gun in the home. If anything, the gun safety that the child learns will serve them well when they are at a friend's home, and the friend want to show off the unsecured gun in the house.

The bottom line though is that we owe it to our children to teach them how to shoot. Firearms are a means of self preservation unparalleled in defensive circles. Even a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick is eclipsed by the power of a 30.06. When we teach our children to shoot, we are giving them power. Power to do good, power to sustain themselves, and the power to preserve their way of life. Yes, we are also giving them the power to do evil, if they so choose. What we must remember is that we must not simply teach our children to shoot, or play ball, or do algebra. We must teach them the value of these endeavors. We must teach them to value themselves. What Randy Pausch said was true. It's a head fake. Indirect learning. We learn best the things that we did not even know we were learning at all. Perseverance. Discipline. Individual accomplishment. Responsibility. Self respect. Respect for others. Confidence. Humility. These are the values a child learns indirectly when taught marksmanship. They are also the values that will insure the child uses what they have learned appropriately.

Boomer's thoughts

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Blogger Evan said...

Very well said, sir.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Hoop said...

Great post. I couldn't agree more.

Here is a link to an great article I read a couple years ago about guns and females. http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/ayoob63.html

I'm going to have to spend some more time reading your blog. A lot of good stuff there.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Hoop said...

Great post! I couldn't agree more.

I attempted to leave a comment earlier but it didn't show up. Just as well though, because I posted a link to a Massad Ayoob article. After reading more on your blog, I see that you have a link to his columns.

Great Blog. I gotta spend more time reading your stuff.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Crucis said...

My Grandson will be 9 this April. I had The Talk with his mother this week about teaching him gun safety, gun handling, and shooting.

When the weather gets warmer, the family will be having a picnic at the range one weekend. I need to teach my daughter and SIL as well. ya see, they voted for a 3rd party candidate and Missouri thinks they are members of a violent militia. It was a wakeup call for them to hear themselves being targeted by their government.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Charliee said...

I consider shooing a life skill that should be taught children as they grow for numerous reasons. If I had a daugher, I guarantee that I would theach her how to shoot. My son is a crack pistol shot and I am very proud of is abilities. He has two college degrees and numerious certifications but one of the proudest moments I have is when he won the trophy for being the best pistol shot at the law enforcement academy.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Michael W. said...

Well thought out and written.

Some of the best times I ever had was teaching kids to properly handle and shoot firearms. Mr. Thomas Jefferson said it best,

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks."

11:46 AM  
Anonymous alex said...

She looks like one of the Olson twins, doesn't she? ;)

Getting an award with EBR - priceless.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous jimbob86 said...

Great Post!

In my house, gun safety training is not an elective, just as swimming lessons are not. Both are Life Skills that can mean the difference between life and death. It's not like my kids won't encounter guns (and idjits with same) out in the real world. Would I rather have them be ignorant, or educated? Pretty simple, really.

" ....evidence of their competence at a skill that elevates them above the common man."

Precisely why the Collectivists don't like the idea: It interferes with their program of striving for mediocrity.......

12:42 PM  
Blogger P said...

I like the aim of the story, but the one issue I have is when to allow kids to know where the guns are.

I was raised knowing there was a .22 rifle in back hall, and a model 12 behind the front door. I think every house in the area had the same set up. My mother killed rabbits in the garden as well as squirrels, raccoon, and rodents eating the literal fruits of her labors. I was very proud when I was sent by mom out to pick up the Rabbit and drag it into the porch for her to start to convert to stew.

At about age 4 my dad brought home a coconut, a hard shelled chunk about the size of my head. He took me out to the garage, he took that coconut and tapped me on the head with it, letting me know how hard it was, not hurting me, but just a little thump to let me understand that nut was a whole lot harder than my head. He then placed it on a fence post just out side the door of the garage and picked up the model 12 and without letting me get my fingers in my ears, pulled the trigger.

At the 15 feet or so, that load of bird shot transformed that hard shelled coconut into a spray of mush that covered the back yard. My ears were ringing, but I KNEW instinctively what he was showing me, that the gun was able to instant, severe, and irreparable damage to something much tougher than I was.

That lesson kept me from ever wanting to play with the guns that were around the house. I understood very VERY clearly the implications of what would happen. Children are driven by three fears, I believe, separation, depravation, and pain. By the time kids are 4 or 5, most of us allow them to carefully use sharp knives under supervision, they understand the penalties for misuse, and from then on, most do not walk around trying to slice off bits of other siblings or enemies,

Kids are around stoves almost from birth. keeping a kid AWAY from a stove is a matter of letting them learn was HOT means, to a point of pain, but not to a point of injury. (Putting it bluntly, you want them to touch something and yell OWIE!! and pull their hand back, NOT to touch something hot and need a trip to the ER, ) Once they learn that, they tend to stay away,

My house has had guns in from the moment the kids came home from the maternity ward. By age 5 they understood that a bad man was trying to steal Mommy. They understood that Mommies only way to keep them safe was the guns, and that playing with the guns, would make it possible for the bad man to steal Mommy.

We have had loaded guns stashed throughout the house ever since. They are not in plain sight, they are not where someone who does not have access to the knowledge of the guns would be able to get them, yet inside the house, you are never more than fifteen feet from a gun. (it aint buckingham palace here, so just a few guns can do that). Some are hidden in furniture, some are hidden in ways I don't want to discuss.

Raise you daughters and sons to know the consequences, and to know the risks, but let them grow up.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Ed Skinner said...

Coaching anyone in shooting does require some judgement, of course.

For example, two novices come to mind. One of them is attentive, listens to instructions and then attempts to follow them. Our session yesterday started with Jeff Cooper's four rules and, when later in the session one of them was transgressed and the gun fired, we talked about what happened, why it happened and then how following those rules are so critical. I also congratulated him for following the remaining three and observed that was why his errant shot went harmlessly downrange into the dirt and away from us.

The other novice was apparently unable to remember any of the rules and after repeated transgressions where I had to reach in and quickly grasp the body of the gun to keep it pointed in a safe direction, it was decided this was not to be his sport.

I also have two grandaughters, one of whom learns well and shoots safely (now a teenager), and the other still too young to understand the ramifications of not following the rules. Her introduction to hand guns awaits that readiness.

1:53 PM  
Blogger BobG said...

I learned to shoot a 22 pistol and rifle by the time I was five. I remember a similar lesson to P's when I was a kid; my dad shot a jackrabbit with his .270 Winchester to show me what a bullet could do, and why we should be careful with firearms. As you can imagine, the example stuck in my head to this day.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Xavier.

My son, now 10 years old, has been shooting for 2 years. He learned to read and memorize complex instructions starting with The Four Rules.

Gotta go now. There is a gun show in town. After that it's range time in the rain.


2:34 PM  
Anonymous Rightwing182 said...

To repeat what many have said before, well said sir. It is good to hear that there are rational thinking people htat are teaching people in this world. A gun is a tool to achieve a purpose. The same as a 3/8ths box end wrench. You must use it correctly to get a good final result. The user is the good or bad not the object.


3:21 PM  
Blogger Assrot said...

Well said and right on Xavier. I started hunting with my papaw when I was 8 years old.

By the time I was 10 I had my own shotgun, rifle and revolver and was trusted to go hunting by myself.

Things have changed a lot in the past 50+ years. I'm not sure a young kid can go hunting alone these days without the bliss ninnies finding out and calling the police.

At least you can still take them to the range and help them learn the discipline and responsibility that is inherent to learning about handling firearms and still have some fun.

I wonder how long it will be before that is taken from us too.


4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was amazing. I'm so glad you addressed it. It's something I've been thinking about a lot, but have never been able to articulate it well, but you clearly put into words what many of us have been merely speculating.

Thanks again.


5:58 PM  
Anonymous lindertw said...

Excellent post Xavier!

6:59 AM  
Blogger Keith Walker said...

Great post! I passed it along on my Facebook profile.

11:53 PM  
Blogger staghounds said...

Of the five genuine "I didn't know it was loaded" gun homicide cases I've dealt with, four were the first time the shooter had touched a gun.

No child is too young to learn rule one!!!!

7:35 PM  

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