I loved it. I had been waiting patiently for years to hear those words from my son’s mouth. I had no idea when he might show an interest in learning to shoot and I often wondered when he would begin asking the telltale questions.
Of course he is well aware that dad works around and spends a lot of time around firearms. He sees me cleaning them or watches me admiring the new one as I take it from the box or place it in the safe and he has accompanied me to the studio to watch the Armed American Radio show live on occasion, so it was not an unexpected question…It was just a matter of when.
One of the most asked questions that seems to pop up in the Armed American Radio email inbox is the one inquiring about what age is proper to introduce children to firearms. The answer is that there really is no set age but the best advice would be “as early as possible.”
The key reason to reach out to your children early of course is safety. Kids have a natural curiosity about firearms and the earlier we can strip them of that curiosity and remove the fascination, the likelier they are to absorb instruction and respect for the power of a gun, thereby resulting in their own safety.
Both of my children are a little unique in the fact that they see their father around guns and hear the work-related conversations centered on gun related issues more so than the average kid might. As a result, they began to show an interest maybe a little earlier than other children and I have been teaching them from a very young age that guns are good, that they save lives but can also be used by bad people. They were quick learners and although I was able to open the dialogue at an early age, they were nowhere near the maturity level needed to actually fire a gun when they began asking questions.
That changed quickly and as those of you who are parents know all too well, time moves quickly and it wasn’t long before the curiosity of guns turned into that long awaited question, “Daddy, can you teach me to shoot”. For my son, it was six years-old and I was comfortable with his maturity at his age that the time had come. I’m a firm believer that when a child inquires about guns in any way, to drop what you’re doing and handle the inquiry right there on the spot and in fact had done so many times in the past.
In this case, I tempered my excitement and calmly asked him if he was ready to go right away. When he answered in the affirmative, I loaded the gear and 20 minutes later we were on our way! I’m not sure who was more excited as we drove out to the property!
From the moment we set up the steel plate target about 5 yards away, he took total control! Within minutes we were going over safe gun handling and when I was comfortable that he was ready, I knelt behind him and assisted him with his first shot.
The only thing I’ll remember the rest of my life more than the PING of the target as it spun around rapidly was my little guy screaming, “I hit it!”
Hit it indeed.
I watched his pride swell and his eyes widen with each successive sound of the .22 LR bouncing off of the plate and knew immediately that my relationship with my son had changed forever.
After nearly 100 rounds, he began to tire and as we returned to the truck he asked me the next question, “Can I get my own gun”? Again, I tempered my excitement…I mean the thought of buying a new gun always fires me up but what better reason could there be than this, I thought! “Absolutely” I said, “Are you ready to go look”?
Of course I knew what he needed and the hunt was on. Three counties, two hours and three gun shops later, my son was the proud owner of his first firearm, a Thompson Center .22 Hotshot rifle.
Now my kids have been in countless gun stores with me over the years and usually never display any emotion other than, “Dad can we go” because they had been dragged against their will, but not this time. Not only was my son eager, he was acting like he had just eaten a two-pound sugar stick.
“Can we go back to shoot,” he asked.
It didn’t matter that dinner time was approaching, bath time wasn’t a concern, nothing, and I mean nothing was getting in the way of our going back to the property to unleash that new rifle, HIS rifle on that steel plate target. Boy did he. I had never seen the wide-eyed look on a kids face like that before. He had the bug and I couldn’t have been prouder!
My son and I have been out plinking many times since that Saturday afternoon and we no doubt will spend many more hours together enjoying the shooting sports. He has asked about learning to shoot the .22 Walther pistol and when his hands are large and strong enough, we’ll step him up when he’s ready.
As proud as I am of my son, I am just as thrilled that I am doing my part to teach the next generation about our American heritage. I am proud of the fact that my children have been taught gun safety and understand that although a bad person can use a gun to do bad things, that it is the person who is bad, not the gun.
I am proud that my children will grow up knowing that guns are good, that guns are fun and that guns save lives.
If guns intimidate you for some reason, join me over at Armed American Radio (www.armedamericanradio.com) or give me a Like at Armed American Radio over on Facebook and we’ll help cure that problem! Follow me on twitter @AARMark