Rifles not child’s play

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Parenting columnist Ian Munro offers some advice when youngsters are fascinated by guns.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

According to a recent Gun City flier, we should "get the kids outdoors" this summer. And to do this we could buy them an air rifle and shooting gallery for use in the backyard.

Several years ago, the business issued a hunting mail order catalogue carrying an advertisement for a single shot rifle "custom-made just for kids". Its tone suggested  it  was fine for children as young as 6.

Once again, we’re seeing this less desirable aspect of American culture being inappropriately promoted.

On farms up and down the country, youngsters will be learning to shoot under the watchful guidance of an experienced parent, while kids with  parents who are hunters will undoubtedly be drawn into hunting themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that - it will be active and it will be supervised by parents with firearms skills.

But this is about youngsters and air rifles in suburban backyards.

This promotion, despite what the company might say, isn’t really aimed at keeping them "active this summer" or about educating about firearms. It’s about selling a product and growing a market. It’s about getting kids to start  using firearms as early as possible.

The earlier advertisement was in a specialist catalogue but this promotion is a suburban letterbox drop. Will parents begin to feel the pressure for a firearm in every Christmas stocking?

Will we see a new group of parents, not so familiar with firearms and firearm safety, buying weapons for their youngsters?

Youngsters don’t fully grasp the fact that death is a permanent state or the sort of injuries that can be inflicted, even with an air rifle, until they’re about 10 and pre-schoolers can’t distinguish between play guns and the real thing.

Guns can be fascinating and the temptation to pull the trigger very strong. We’ve had enough accidents and fatalities to demonstrate that it can be hard to resist showing off with a firearm.

If young people older than the two featured on the front of the flier can succumb to this temptation, aren’t younger children even more likely to?

No doubt there will have been much discussion in the media by the time you read this, so I’ll finish with a thought or two for those who have a youngster fascinated by guns.

Set some rules rather than banning play that includes guns. For example, you might make a rule  a gun is not to be pointed at people without their permission.

• Make clear your own views about shooting at people, even in pretend.

• Rather than providing a realistic gun, provide materials from which a gun can be built and which can be used to build something else later.



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