Guns and Children

Many years ago, before I had children, I spent some time with a family who had two boys. I can’t recall their exact ages now but they were both, if my recollection is correct, very early school age (between 4 and 7).

One of the topics of conversation during my stay centred around the upbringing of children. Now It was a constant source of annoyance to me, at that time in my life, that I found it hard to criticise any parenting decision as I hadn’t myself been faced with the same set of circumstances. If I did ever offer an opinion, the parents concerned almost always dismissed it with the phrase “Wait until you have children of your own – you might think differently then”.

I digress.

On this particular occasion I did voice an opinion, despite the expected riposte, because I felt very strongly that the couple concerned had got it wrong. They had decided to shield their children from all forms of violence. This didn’t just mean avoiding news bulletins and newspapers showing wars, murders and assaults but also included cartoons like Tom and Jerry.

Whilst having more sympathy for their stance on the media, I argued vehemently that when Jerry hit Tom about the head with a frying pan it was ‘slapstick violence’ (my definition) and highly unlikely to turn their two boys into homicidal maniacs. I also felt that an important part of a child’s development was learning right from wrong. I was concerned that if you denied the existence of or shielded someone from wrong-doing you were going to make it harder for them later in life when they found the truth (i.e. that people do die in wars, there are homicidal maniacs and guns do exists).

Now I do have my own children. We have not shielded them from the existence of wars, murders and other wicked human behaviour believing that they should know such things happen but that they are wrong. We have let them watch Tom and Jerry safe in the belief that they won’t hit cats with frying pans or plug their tails into the mains. We would like to think they know the difference between slapstick and violent assault or cruelty to animals.

Now I turn to the other end of the scale and the real reason for writing this blog. In what universe did the parents of a nine-year-old in America think it necessary to give their daughter a lesson in how to fire an Uzi? For those that haven’t read about this, when the weapon was switched from single shot to automatic she lost control of it, presumably due to the recoil, and shot her instructor in the head. He died of his wounds.

How many gun related deaths have to occur in America for them to change their attitude to firearms and consequently their gun laws?

If you live in a country with a gun-carrying culture I can see that familiarity with a gun may actually save your life one day but do you need it at the age of 9? Does anyone, however gun-pissed the country is, need to know how to fire an Uzi? Some Uzis can fire 1,700 rounds per minute although I suspect the weapon used here was the slower 600 per minute. Anyone who has fired a handgun knows the recoil from a single shot can be hard to control but ten in a second!

Sadly I don’t think anything will happen in the USA after today’s incident. From the little I know about it, far too many American politicians are sponsored by the National Rifle Association. On previous occasions I’ve heard the same quote from the NRA – “Guns don’t kill. People do” or words to that effect. They seem to miss the point that if guns aren’t available to homicidal maniacs (or you make them extremely hard to get) then fewer people get killed in the first place.

The poor girl who shot the instructor is now mentally scarred for life but with parents who thought she should have lessons in how to fire an Uzi, you have to wonder what core values she is being brought up with. May the poor man who got shot rest in peace and let’s hope some good comes from his death.

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