That’s the question asked in a recent ABC News report.
On one side, you have those that say, “Yes, of course.” By teaching children how to properly handle and respect firearms, you’re demystifying them, and in turn, squelching the curiosity that can lead to tragic accidents.
From the report:
“When you teach kids that young, you take the mystery out of the gun, and it’s a really valid thing to do,” Jones said. “We don’t teach them to shoot around barricades. We don’t teach them to clear rooms. We don’t teach them what happens in a carjacking.”
That’s Nikki Jones, leader of the Austin Sure Shots, a women’s-only shooting league in Texas that sponsors the Little Girls Youth Training Program, a firearm training initiative for elementary-age kids (6- to 11-year-olds). In her estimation, teaching the children is about safety, building self-esteem and pure sport.
On the other side of the debate, you have those that say a child’s still-developing brain does not provide them with the impulse-control needed to be trusted with a firearm under any circumstance, even with adult supervision.
That’s the opinion of Dr. Denise Dowd of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The story quotes Dowd, who helps write policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics:
“Kids are impulsive, and you can’t teach that out of a kid,” Dowd said. “You can teach them, they can ‘parrot’ back, they can show you how safe they are, they can load it, they can clean it. But they should not be in independent control of that weapon because they’re impulsive because they’re children.”
Yes, the science and statistics are undeniable. A child’s brain is still developing. And yes, injuries to young people due to guns are a serious problem in this country — a Yale study referenced in the ABC News article solidifies that point:
…7,391 American kids and teens under age 20 were hospitalized from firearm injuries in 2009, according to a Yale School of Medicine study. That means, on average, a child or teen is shot almost every hour.
A closer look at the study cited shows that a majority of those 7,391 hospitalizations (4,143 or 56%) were 15-19 year-old assault victims.
Nearly 30% of all injuries were unintentional in nature, with the 15-19 year-old age group again making up the majority of those cases (67.8%).
(You can read the whole study here.)
What the story and the study don’t address is how many young people involved in those cases had been properly educated on firearm use and where they gained access to their firearm to begin with.
I didn’t grow up in a house with guns. But I knew plenty of kids who did — not that I ever saw the guns. That’s because their parents did have the sense to: A) properly educate their kids on firearm use and its consequences and B) keep the guns out of site and out of reach whenever they weren’t under strict parental supervision.
Given those conditions, my friends’ relationships with firearms were not only safe and healthy, but seemingly beneficial — those trips to the range or deer stand built positive childhood memories along with confidence and self-esteem. (To that last point, check out the Facebook of Gia Rocco, a 9-year-old sharp-shooter mentioned in the story — she’s amazing!)
The plain truth is guns aren’t going anywhere. And I don’t know of any situation where more education is not a beneficial route to take.
But I’m more interested in what YOU have to say. What’s your take on the ABC News story and the issue of youth firearm training in general?