Teaching Respect for Guns
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Ingorance is not bliss.
In a recent forum discussion, on Facebook, I was told that the .22 Long Rifle round was not able to do any damage to the human body. I am paraphrasing here because the way the individual said it was rather crude. I quickly corrected the young man, but this conversation got me thinking about a very large issue. Gun safety. This issue is as old as the existence of guns or any form of projectile. Whether you stand for or against gun control, the fact of the matter is that education when it comes to firearms of all types is necessary if accidental deaths are to be avoided.
"Guns don't kill people...
...stupidity does." The assumption of the young man I mentioned above is that the .22 round is so small it is harmless. The facts speak very differently. The .22 round has a long history of being used as a covert and even silenced weapon in wartime. There are marksmen who have taken down deer using the .22 round. The reason an attitude of such nonchalance is taken towards this particular round is lack of respect and knowledge. It is small, unassuming as compared to hunting rounds or even military ammunition. The issue here is that such an attitude means that any person who handles this sort of ammunition is at risk of hurting or even killing himself or others accidentally.
Butter Knives Can Harm
When I first started my education on firearms, I went to an expert. A former scout master who is a retired (if that is possible) Master Sargent of the Marine Corps. When I asked him for advice on guns, his response was, "What do you want to use it for?" My reply was a list including hunting and self defense. His reply, "You can kill with a bb gun if you know what your doing with it."
Now, I don't think he was suggesting I should use a bb gun to do such a thing, but what I learned from this is that any firearm is dangerous. Since then I treated anything with a trigger with respect. The problem I see when I hear about accidents involving children and firearms is not that guns are evil, but rather that parents have not taken the time to teach their children how dangerous guns can be if not respected. Like fire, knives and scissors, guns are tools that when used correctly can be fun, entertaining and useful.
Like with the cartoon I saw as a kid about playing with matches, I think all children should be taught how to treat firearms. I think it should be engrained in them. Not necessarily to fear them so much as to respect them. In relation to that should be lessons on the respect for life. The thing that allows genocide to take place in Africa and other places around the world is the same as what allows a person to take joy in wonton killing of animals.
I remember shooting with my bb gun as a kid. I loved it. Target shooting was the best. One day I shot into a tree and hit a bird. I was horrified! I didn't mean to kill that little finch. I held it in my hands as it died. At the tender age of 9 or 10, that taught me an important life lesson. In the years since I have had to put down several goats because of one ailment or another. Those situations were hard, but the deaths were for a purpose. I respected the lives involved. I have also hunted and eaten the game I caught. In each case I showed respect for the animal killed. Unlike my first kill, that little bird, each and every time after that event I have made sure not to waste or to glory in the taking of life. The issue I see if that too many of our children do not understand this. It is a hard lesson to teach, but how are we to avoid the mistakes of the past (such as those mistake made by Germany prior to and during WWII) if we are unwilling to teach the lessons to future generations.
Change the Symbolism
The symbolism of the cross during the time of Christ was of torture, brutal death and betrayal. With the advent of Christianity, the cross soon changed to mean hope, change and new life. The gun as we see it now is marred by some to be seen as evil, dark and deadly. Instead, I feel it should be viewed like a fireman's ax, a kitchen knife or a shovel. All of these items are potentially deadly, but they have a constructive use. Instead of limiting guns to the view of a weapon, we can change the image to that of a tool. We ensure that the tool is respected, but by shifting the view of guns as being tools we can show that any use other than the socially acceptable ones of self defense, hunting or for leisure, or in the line of duty as an officer of the law, is not acceptable.
Just like how we don't run with knives or scissors and play with matches, if we actually TEACH the respect of guns, I think gun accidents will decrease and violent crime relating to guns will as well.