Teaching a Child To Shoot
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. The 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. The 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.