Kids with Guns

I completed a handgun safety course this past weekend.

To put it another way, I’m now officially banned from ever living in New York, California or Illinois.

I had a great instructor named Ricky.  He’s from Puerto Rico and he spent twenty years serving as a United States Marine.

“I come from the mountains of Puerto Rico,” he told us in his thick accent.

“I love this country and I love the second amendment.”

Ricky made me want to stand up and sing America the Beautiful.

I’m far from a gun expert.  But as I sat in class, listening to Ricky, it made me proud to hear a few things that I already knew.

“Every gun is a loaded gun.”

“Don’t touch the trigger unless you know what you’re going to hit and you’re okay with killing it.”

As a kid I spent a lot of time playing with my cousins at my grandparent’s house. There were guns in every room.  But the gun safe industry had yet to take off at that time.  Instead, my grandfather’s guns were hanging on the walls.  Fully loaded. Ready to go.

Thanks to my grandfather, we knew to stay away.

He was the one that took me on my first two hunting trips.  The first trip was fake.  I was shooting an old Coke can that represented a bear.  While I was aiming, my grandfather quietly and patiently instructed me.

“Don’t let the bear get us.”

“Watch where you aim.”

I didn’t do so well.  I never hit the Coke can and it mauled my entire family.

The second hunting trip was real.  We walked around in the woods, both carrying real guns, hunting birds.  We never saw anything but we weren’t mauled this time so it was a big improvement.

I don’t think I’ve been hunting since then.

When I got a little older, maybe 12, my dad bought me a .22 rifle with a scope.  I got to use it when I visited him but it had to stay at his house when I left for mine.  I lived with my mother in Clayton County, Georgia.  The only hunting that happened there was when the police tried to find the guy that spray painted Mike Is A Wimp on the side of some convenience store.

While I sat in class last weekend, learning about handguns, I thought about my dad and my grandfather.  I thought about how many kids today are growing up without any kind of a male presence in their lives.  I wondered why nobody is talking about this when they talk about gun violence.

Could it be that the gun isn’t the real problem, no matter how many rounds that it holds?  Could the reason why 15-year-olds shoot other 15-year-olds have something to do with the the problem of fatherlessness in this country?  Yes and yes.

Our society preaches sex without consequences, especially for men.  If you slip up and make a “mistake” there’s always the abortion route.  But if that’s not an option, and you’re willing to pay a few bucks a month, you can still go about your normal life while the “mistake’s” mother handles the hard work of parenting.  And we’re somehow surprised when that “mistake” doesn’t know how to act around a gun.

Being a dad means being responsible.  Responsibility is in short supply these days.  Maybe it’s not just the teenage gang bangers and school shooters that need to grow up.  And there is no government program, bill or restriction that can make this happen.  The human heart, it turns out, is outside of federal jurisdiction.

A while back, my dad gave me my grandfather’s shotgun.  The same one that hung on the wall of the room where I played as a kid.  And I finally got to take my .22 rifle back to my own house.  Now my young son carefully looks through that same scope while his dad quietly gives him instructions.

“Remember, it’s loaded and ready to go.  It’s always loaded.”

“Watch where you’re aiming.”

“Don’t put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.”

“Okay, whenever you’re ready.”

But this time, the Coke can almost always dies.