Children and Guns

Let me start off by saying that I respect the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, and I am not an advocate of hindering anyone who is legitimately eligible to possess a firearm. However, I strongly oppose introducing guns to children. Like the license to drive, a certain amount of maturity is required to possess and properly use a gun to assure its safety. We don’t let children drive, and I don’t believe we should introduce guns to children either.

On Sunday, January 27, The New York Times featured a story, “Selling a New Generation on Guns,” that provided an exposé on the efforts of the firearms industry to introduce guns to children. Why would we encourage this? The use of guns requires not only some basic skills, but because of the lethality of the gun, it also requires some discretion. The developmental capacity of most children and adolescents to responsibly use a firearm is greatly diminished because of their age and any number of factors that make placing a gun in the hands of children inconceivable to me.

Recently, I was involved in a discussion involving one of our adolescent residents who had been introduced to guns by his father on a recent home visit. Although we were not concerned that the boy would have a gun in his possession, we were concerned that he did not possess the self-control or reasoning capacity to assure that he could use a gun appropriately. With proper support, this resident has increasingly seen his ability to manage anger and impulses. But until he is able to master these issues, providing him with access to firearms is not advised. Luckily our staff had enough of a rapport with both parent and child that we were able to address the issue and identify ways to bond other than at the shooting range.

Some would say that restricting access to guns for children is only common sense. It does not require any additional legislation; it just requires that we take responsibility for safeguarding our children as we do with so many other things. However, parents and families need to be supported in their efforts; and an environment that encourages access to guns for children can undermine the efforts of any well-intended parent.

What concerns me about the strategy that is being employed by the firearms industry is the insidious way recreational shooting is introduced into the lives of children. The firearms industry has demonstrated little consideration of the children’s ability to understand the potential for deadly impact of the sport.

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