Depending on where you live, you may have different feelings about letting kids use guns. A mom I know from my very anti-gun neighborhood in Brooklyn moved with her family a few years ago to rural upstate New York -- and lo and behold, she's thinking about getting her 14-year-old son his own rifle! What changed her mind? Larissa Phillps explained what happened in her post, "A Park Slope Mom Raises a Hunter."
When Larissa's son, Booker, was a toddler, she didn't allow shooting games. But after they moved upstate, he became interested in hunting deer. Their neighbors and friends were experienced hunters, and she began to see guns in a different light. I talked with Larissa about what that change was like, and how she sees guns and safety now.
This acceptance of guns does not come lightly. Larissa's husband's sister was shot accidentally when she was a child. She wasn't killed, but she was injured. So they know first-hand how dangerous guns can be.
For Larissa and her family, the path to gun ownership started with a food. Booker's interest in getting a rifle came from his interest in hunting deer and the family's commitment to sustainable food. "You start eating your own chickens, you've already taken that step," Larissa says. "My son definitely drinks the Kool-Aid. He won't eat meat from the supermarket or fast food." Booker is also interested in survival skills.
Booker got a BB gun when he was 11 years old. He took the mandatory safety course for a junior hunting license. At home they have strict rules about the BB gun: Keep it unloaded, never shoot at anyone, even if you think the gun is empty, never have a gun around the family dogs.
But that's in their own home. "We know a lot of parents here with guns," Larissa says. So she and her husband have talked with Booker and their 10-year-old daughter about what to do if they're at a friend's house, and a kid pulls out a gun. They should leave the room immediately and call one of their parents to pick them up. Larissa thinks it's unlikely to happen, though. She says most kids are rarely away from adult supervision.
It seems as long as that connection boys especially seem to have with guns is harnessed in a productive way -- like filling the freezer with deer meat -- it's easier to accept.
On the other hand, there are some things about gun culture in her area that still make her nervous. Owning a gun for hunting deer (so you can eat the meat) is one thing. But keeping guns for protection seems to come with paranoid ideas about the government as some sort of bugaboo that's out to get them and their guns. In one week she heard of two different people saying something to the effect of, "I'll meet them at the door with my gun."
Still, it's interesting that Larissa gets to shape her son's attitude toward gun ownership from her unique perspective. Maybe with more kids like Booker taking an interest in hunting, we'll have a new generation of people who take a more sensible and less extreme stance on gun ownership.
Are your kids interested in hunting?
Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife/Flickr