The boogeyman in the sock drawer
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
• The sock drawer
• Are today’s children more mature?
• Deny, deny
• Explain everything
• Let them make their own mistakes
• What can you do?
• A program that works
• Things to consider
• A shooter training program
Although she may not remember, Edith asked me to write this blog some time ago. What do you do with guns when there are children in the house?
I’m not going to lie and tell you there’s one right answer. That would be foolish, because children have differing personalities, just like adults. Some are curious and others are cautious. Some seem to seek out the wrong paths instinctively, while others are wise beyond their years.
Every parent and guardian has to first take the measure of the children under their control, plus the possibility that visiting children might tread beyond the threshold that your children respect. And this is a challenge because parents and guardians are just as variable as children. I won’t run through all the possible combinations of children’s and parents’ personalities. What I’ll do is give you a simple rule — don’t trust nobody with nothin’!
The sock drawer
When I was growing up in the 1950s, parents kept things in their dresser drawers if they didn’t want their children handling them. Children were not allowed in the parents’ bedroom without permission, so those places were sacrosanct. Children back then knew that, of course, which made the parents’ drawers treasure chests to be explored at all risk. This is where the personalities came into play. Some kids stayed out of their parents’ drawers because they were told to. Others sought them out at every opportunity. Having a “rule” about access was as thin and foolish as the government explaining why a tax increase is going to benefit everyone. And the children saw right through it! They still do today.
Are today’s children more mature?
Today’s children are fundamentally no different than children were 200 years ago. They’re certainly more exposed to the rudeness of life, but at their cores they’re the same curious people they have always been. And there are various ways of dealing with this.
One method of protecting children is to avoid mentioning the taboos altogether. The thinking is that if they never hear about it, they will not have the opportunity to be attracted to it, possibly making wrong decisions with dire consequences. This is applied to everything from sex to liquor to fire to firearms. And, because of the varying personalities mentioned before, sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. But when it doesn’t work, the chances for disaster are huge! Get the wrong personality and vice together, and they bond instantly.
In this approach, the parent explains everything to the child — in detail. It works with some kids and not with others because of those personalities. Again, both the parent and the child are factors that cannot be overlooked. When it works, it works very well. When it doesn’t work, it often stimulates curiosity that leads to problems.
Let them make their own mistakes
“Kids are going to drink anyway, so I’d rather they did it at home — where it’s safe and I can control it.” This is a bad philosophy. All it does is introduce the child to things they aren’t physically or emotionally prepared for. I saw it in my own family and the outcome was a disaster that is still unfolding 50 years later. The parents are long gone, but the kids who are now entering old-age are train wrecks that continue to inflict pain around them.
What can you do?
This is where we will part ways. What I’m about to say is my personal philosophy, and many people will disagree with it.
First — Recognize that guns are dangerous! That includes airguns. Parents cannot afford to have Playstation personalities about the sharp pointy things in life. If you have guns in the house and also young people, you need to think through a plan of safety for everyone. Edith and I have a lot of guns in the house, and some of them are loaded. But when company comes to visit, we do things about it. The guns get unloaded and the ammo gets put away. The guns are then secured so the curious people cannot get to them. Never forget that children come in all ages!
Second — Recognize when it’s time to train the children. Not to fear guns, but to respect them. I can tell you how I would do it, but it varies with each child — because, as I have said, children are people, too. Each one is different and has to be approached in a different way. And each reaches the level of responsibility (where they can safely handle guns) at different times — with some never making it.
Third — Admit when there’s a problem. Some kids will never be responsible enough to handle or be safely around guns, and you need to be cognizant of that. If that’s the case in your family, you need to take steps to ensure that the situation never arises for the child in question to be around guns.
A program that works
Here’s a program that works. It doesn’t work with everybody because of that personality thing I keep mentioning, but it works well a large percentage of the time. It’s a phased approach.
Phase 1. Keep the guns away from the children until they’re mature enough to understand that they must behave in certain ways.
Phase 2. When the child shows they can behave in your presence, introduce them to your guns. Show them how they operate and how they perform when they fire. They don’t have to know everything about the guns — just the basics. This is where you begin instructing them about safe gun handling. Test them after they have learned these basic lessons. Make sure they apply them at the fundamental level — not just to satisfy you when you are watching.
Phase 3. Some children will be curious about guns and will want to shoot them. Others will not. Train those who have an interest but respect the ones who don’t. Make sure they all understand the basic gun handling rules, but don’t force a child to learn to shoot just because you like to.
Things to consider
Children are not always under your direct control. Sometimes, they may be at a friend’s home. Or at the home of a friend of a friend. The children in that household may not have the same education that you have given yours. Their parents may also be irresponsible. What can you do about that?
This is where the child’s personality really comes into play. Some will instinctively do the right thing and others won’t. You can’t do much about that either way. What you can do (and must do, in my opinion) is train your children to the limit of their maturity and then hope for the best.
The National Rifle Association has the Eddie Eagle program, which teaches young children to leave any room in which there is a gun. They’re supposed to leave the room and tell an adult. While this program is a good one, it has a flaw. The “adult” the child tells may not be able to deal with the situation. It’s still the best thing a child can do, but it isn’t 100 percent failsafe.
And that, unfortunately, is the bottom line for this report. Nothing is failsafe. My way may fail while a way that I oppose may succeed. There’s no guarantee for anything.
In the end, though, you have to be able to live with the consequences. If things turn bad, how will you feel about what you did to prepare? As long as you can live with that, you’re doing the best you can.
The holidays are coming around very soon, and some of you will be giving airguns as presents. If you do, I hope that you also give something more. I hope you give the training the recipient needs to enjoy that airgun as it was intended. That’s a gift that will last the rest of their lives!
A shooter training program
All that said, here’s a new shooter training program I wrote a few years ago for parents who don’t know what they don’t know about teaching kids to shoot. It includes specifics and psychology in its 6 parts. I hope it helps someone.