U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- You see it everywhere, from little league to every outdoor activity these days, kids with their faces glued to a phone screen.
The blips and bleeps of electronic addiction dazzling their senses while drowning out the outside world and at the same time, all of what older generations like mine took for granted, the freedom of being able to go outside and enjoy life, fresh air and the larger world that didn’t come in the form of the latest gadget.
While this overstimulation and desire to let kids be babysat by devices with names like Siri and Alexa isn’t limited to one form, none of our passions are under fire like teaching children to safely use a firearm and in the same aspect, hunting.
Now is a very important time because how many kids in their schools are being flooded with the wrong message after Parkland Shooting, and being put on the spot by liberal educators and politicians who want to use them for political gains. I think that most kids are being sold a bill of goods and since they have no other way to get an opposing point of view towards guns, gun owners and all of the recreational activities, they are simply going along thinking that they are making a difference.
So how do we turn the tide and stop our kids becoming freedom hating mindless liberals pawns?
First and foremost is to have your kids put down the damned iPad, or get away from the video games for awhile. Then get them outside, heck, take them out in the woods or walking first. Leave the devices home, they won’t need them. A couple years ago I talked to a fishing instructor who takes kids from urban areas on day trips and the first thing he does is leave the phones with the parents or he holds onto them, but the kids are not allowed to touch them at all. They might whine and suffer for a bit because they can’t check their facebook status, but it won’t kill them. Make sure when you take them out, you keep them engaged, point out the birds you see, animal tracks, bring a compass with you the first time, show them how to use it, and explain why they need to use one in case they go out.
Make it fun and keep them focused, because you’re competing with whatever is trending for the day online and the latest news about the hottest celebrity.
I cannot tell you when is the appropriate time to start taking a kid to the range because they are all different and have different maturity levels, but when you do, explain the rules of firearm safety to them, before they get there, and stress them emphatically. I have taught a few kids and I have made it clear that no horseplay or fooling around is tolerated, if they can’t behave, they don’t come back for a long time. It might be harsh, but a phone call to a loved one with tragic news is something I wish to avoid at all costs.
One of the things I have seen in person before, and it infuriates me, is when I see someone giving a young kid a gun to shoot that will have more recoil than they can handle or are ready for. I have seen parents bound and determined to have their kids shoot clays with their favorite 12 gauge with heavy loads, or get a bullseye with Granddad’s .30-06 the very first time out. After a couple of rounds that kid wants nothing to do with that gun or any other gun from that moment on because now their shoulder hurts and their self-esteem is in the tank because they can’t hit the water if they fell out of a boat.
Have some common sense and start them off small, there’s no shame in having them start off with a .22 rifle, or even an air rifle or BB gun.
The point is to get them shooting, responsibly and safely but to also have fun. A kid whose shoulder is stiff the next day from the range isn’t likely to continue on with a desire to do something he or she thinks is going to hurt every time they do it. That also brings something to mind, don’t ignore the girls out there, shooting is an equal opportunity sport, and getting girls into the shooting sports is just as important as the boys. Also make sure you get the kids proper ear and eye protection before they start out as well.
Another thing to think on, don’t get upset if your kid doesn’t get every round where you think they should go. We were all beginners once and I am willing to bet none of us were exactly right up there with Annie Oakley when it came to marksmanship. Don’t expect or demand perfection, they’ll get there, the goal is to keep them interested. I recommend getting targets that are silhouettes of squirrels or game animals and can be seen when the bullet hits them. These are more responsive and can be a bit more fun. If you can shoot clay targets stationary from a stand I recommend those as well. A positive hit on one of these will be more than enough to keep the kids interested once they break a few of them.
I would also stress that you don’t bring .22 rifles that are overly complicated, you might know the ins and outs of that Ruger 10/22 or other semi auto rifle, but the kids don’t, and having a bunch of rounds coming out quick isn’t going to teach them the basics like a single shot will. I picked up a Savage Model 30G single shot .22 before my son was even born. This was Savage Arms last incarnation of the old Stevens Favorite falling block design. It works well with either left or right handed shooters, takes .22 Shorts just as well as .22 Long Rifle high velocity rounds and has some of the best open sights I have ever seen on a .22 rifle out of the box. There are other .22 single shot rifles out there like the Keystone Arms Crickett, and Henry’s single shot bolt action.
So now that you’ve got the outdoor activities planned, don’t forget to ask about what the kids are learning in school. One thing we have been seeing is that despite what the media says, not every school had their kids walk out in protest recently. Here in my area, kids in one school held a March In, which remembered the seventeen lives lost, and had no political agenda to it either way, as it should be. Other schools made it clear that schools are a place for learning, and that if the kids chose to leave, there would be consequences. Again, this is what you want to see, but can’t count on. Ask your kids what they’re being taught, and then if you need to, respectfully talk to the teachers or administrators, but keep your cool. Shouting and getting angry only makes us look exactly like the way those who want to strip our rights from us portray us. Talk it out with your kids, explain the facts to them. They might not get it at first, but at least present them with both sides.
Part of our responsibility as gun owners is to pass on what we have learned, and by doing so safely, make it so that the next generation can enjoy what we have now. I would hate to be the one to tell my son, or perhaps someday his children, that we used to be able to shoot, we used to be able to hunt, but that the Second Amendment and the rights we had with it went the way of the rotary phone and VHS players.
Get the kids involved, away from the gadgets and out into a wider world, the future of their rights depends on it, even if they don’t know it yet.
About David LaPell
David LaPell has been a Corrections Officer with the local Sheriff's Department for thirteen years. A collector of antique and vintage firearms for over twenty years and an avid hunter. David has been writing articles about firearms, hunting and western history for ten years. In addition to having a passion for vintage guns, he is also a fan of old trucks and has written articles on those as well.