Guns, Kids and Common Sense
Setting the Scene
Like most people, except for those who are so rabid in their fanaticism about the Second Amendment that the only limits they will accept on guns are . . .‘none,’ I was horrified by the video currently in the news about the nine-year-old girl who was allowed to fire an Uzi sub-machine gun at a firing range and ended up killing her instructor in the process. As a counselor/therapist friend of mine has said repeatedly about dysfunctional life decisions and situations brought to him by his clients, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
Critique of Situation shown in video
I’ve watched the video of that girl as she was being positioned to hold and fire a weapon intended for use by military personnel, and asked myself that same question [what's wrong with this picture?] and each time I’ve seen that video—right up to the second when the gun lurches up and to the left, launching a bullet into the head of the instructor—I’ve come to the same conclusions professional experts have voiced.
First, a young girl doesn’t have the physical strength to control a weapon with that kind of firing power. Second, why does a child need to know how to use an Uzi? Third, why did the gun range owner(s) set an age limit as low as 8? Fourth, why was the instructor to the girl’s left and leaning down close to the barrel of the gun, instead of standing fully behind her? Fifth, what were the girls’ parents thinking when they took her to that range and allowed her to fire an automatic weapon?
I don’t have any ‘good’ answers to those points/questions. I can only come up with positive solutions and responses to them, namely:
- Children aren’t strong enough or mature enough to handle weapons.
- No child (or adult either, for that matter) needs to be proficient in the use of an Uzi or similar kind of gun.
- An age limit for gun ranges ought to be considered that matches the age required for a learner’s permit to drive a car.
- Instructors need to be more careful (and, I understand, usually are) when it comes to positioning themselves behind a customer/client. [Would you stand in front of, or within 3-4 feet of anyone swinging a golf club at a ball?]
- Parents must be able to think of an activity for their children that is safer and more universally useful than frequenting a gun range. [As one commentator on TV said about this incident, give older youth a 22 rifle or pistol for target practice . . . or take them hunting with you and teach them safety procedures in the process.
My First Experience with 'Guns'
My observations may seem a bit naïve or biased to anyone who lives and breathes within the gun culture, so let me state my qualifications (or lack of them) up front. I was raised in a weaponless home, and my parents were dead set against any symbols of violence, even ‘cap’ guns! Even so, I always wanted a holster and gun set (like the ones worn by Roy Rogers and Gene Autry in the movies). When I was in 4th grade, I went to the movies with friends one Saturday. During one intermission the theater held contests on stage for patrons whose ticket stubs matched numbers drawn from a container, and my number was called. On stage, we were given a dart (like the ones thrown at a dart board) and told to throw it at a large board on which a number of balloons had been fastened. Each balloon had a slip of paper inside it that named the prize you’d win if you succeeded in popping that balloon. When it was my turn, I tossed my dart and was lucky enough to pop a balloon. And what did the slip inside say I’d won with that lucky toss? A cap gun set, complete with holster, belt and an array of wooden bullets!
I was thrilled, until I got home and had to explain to my mother why I had it, and how I’d gotten it. She didn’t believe me! In fact, she called the theater’s office to prove I’d made up the tale. After speaking with the manager and confirming the fact that I had indeed won the gun set ‘fair and square,’ my mother insisted that it all be put away in secret until she and my father could talk about the situation and come up with a fair solution. The agreement we came to eventually was that I could use the gun set once a week, but never on Sunday!
So, other than charcoal ‘snakes’ and sparklers for Halloween, and throwing a mini-rocket that exploded caps onto our driveway, my cap gun was the biggest concession my parents would make in allowing me to do anything mildly violent.
Now, decades later, I have no idea what happened to that cap gun set. It simply disappeared one day, once I was no longer interested in playing with it.
Later, during my junior and senior high school years, we visited an aunt and uncle and cousins from time to time, who lived in the country by a big river. My male cousin, a year or two older than myself, owned a B.B. gun and we’d go out shooting at glass bottles we’d found, corking and tossing them as targets in a small side stream. To this day I’m proud of the fact that I hit and sunk as many bottles as he did, and he went on to become an FBI agent!
Author's Commentary on Solutions
In addition, a friend of mine in town was allowed to shoot a 22 rifle, and several times we went to an abandoned stone quarry for target practice. Once again, I was as good as he was at shooting. If I’d ended up in the army, I would have been a good sniper. But, thank heavens I never had the chance.
All this is my way of saying that guns have their place in society and developing skills in shooting can be fun and rewarding, as long as it’s done safely and sanely. But I draw the line at young children being armed and dangerous, just as I draw the line at mowing down twenty first graders in Newtown, CN, or young minorities on our city streets—whether those deaths come at the hand of a mentally disturbed individual, a police officer or a gang member.
This isn't the wild, wild West anymore!
I’ve visited Tombstone, AZ, and despite its touristy look and feel, I realize that in many ways the U.S. is back in the 1880’s now when people can tote assault rifles around in restaurants, bars and national parks.
My parents were far too severe in their fear of and restrictions concerning guns, but our American society has become far too lenient in that regard, despite the fact that a majority of citizens (as well as members of the NRA) think that a more reasoned practice is called for, including background checks for sales by private individuals and at gun shows.
We don’t live in the wild, wild West any more—and contrary to the nonsense out there, the government isn’t planning any kind of socialist takeover of our society. Much of the civilized world seems to have figured out how to live and thrive without such easy access to guns. What will it take for our country to join that crowd? How many more children need to die? How many accidents will it take involving youngsters or toddlers who mishandle guns before we’ve had enough of the killing?
Your Opinions are welcome. As for mine--
I’d like to say, we’ve learned our lesson . . . but I’m not so sure—yet.