How young is too young to learn to shoot?

We have a lot of friends and students with children (we have one of our own) and a common question we get asked is some variant of “when should my child start learning about guns?”

There’s several ways to go with the answer (we’ve heard all of these):

  • When they’re old enough for their own house key, they old enough to start learning about guns.
  • 18.  When they can vote, they’re old enough.
  • There is no such thing as too young.
  • Are you kidding?  NO ONE should own guns.  Kids?!  What kind of monster are you?  Go hide under your rock again.

Well apparently I am that kind of monster.  If you’ve been to one of our classes, there’s a good chance you’ve met our son – he’s been coming to them since about the beginning.  I’m working on getting him his own column as part of this blog, so I’ll keep you posted.

So before I come out with my answer to this question, let’s have some fun with this.

If this was your child, age 16, would you teach him about guns?

Check out Leo, left, age 16.

Ha, yeah me either.  Let’s try another:

Guess who? Age 10, in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Ha, pretty cute.  Ok, here’s one most of you will get.  Is 6 years old too young to learn about guns?

Phone home? Age 6.

But maybe the best of all-time:

Even at age 10, he’s fine if left home alone.

Oops, I forgot one more:

Someone really needs to teach this child how to shoot properly and safely

(and if you haven’t already seen the video of the month, see Post #50)

So how old is old enough?  I think the best answers are both “there’s no such thing as too young” and “it depends.”  Clearly, your son or daughter needs to understand the safety rules – and not just the old “yeah, yeah, I get it.  Now give me the gun.”

For us, the first step was having our son help us clean the guns when we got back from the range.  What a great opportunity to see the gun in a non-threatening manner – a pile of parts!  It’s also a perfect time for “Hey, this is a barrel.  Can you help me clean it?”

Cleaning time is also a great time to review the safety rules with your child.  Until they can not only tell me what the rules are but tell me WHY they’re important, I’m not taking them to the range.

Before you step on the baseball diamond, you need to understand the rules of the game and you’d have better played catch at least once in your life.

Yes, some level of maturity is important.  If you figure out how to calculate that, let me know.  So my suggestion is to stick with what you know about your child:

  • Can he tell me the gun safety rules?  Does he know why each is important?
  • Has she actually shown an interest in shooting?  Some kids ask about it purely because they heard it from their friends – but that’s ok.  Do NOT waste an opportunity to talk to your kids about guns, even if you’re not entirely sure yourself.  If they’re curious, you need to engage.  For every question they come to you with, there are probably 600 that they don’t.
  • Is this because HE wants to learn to shoot or because YOU want him to learn to shoot?  If it’s the latter, you have more work to do.  Don’t drag him to the range, or just as bad, pay for him to get formal training if he’ll resent you for it.
  • Does her interest stem from curiosity or from fear?
  • Has he ever been shooting with you before?  Be safe, but that’s a great place to start.  Let him see it in action – even if it’s only a few shots.  We fear the unknown more than anything else.

Make every effort to do this WITH her.  She loves you and she trusts you – lead from the front on this, not from behind.

Lastly, take this very seriously.  It should be fun, it should leave him wanting more, safety is paramount (including all the right gear), but this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Don’t treat him like you would your college frat buddy – it’s not a contest, it’s not a joke, and it’s not surrounded by distractions.  But be yourself!

And when you get this right, you’ll have made a huge step toward empowering the next generation of gun owners.  Thank you!

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