November 10, 2011 § 11 Comments
We just got the boys their first gun, a little .22/410 combo. “Youth model” is the vernacular, which I suppose is preferable to saying “this firearm, which is perfectly capable of killing pretty much anything it is shot at, was engineered specifically for children.” Indeed, it’s almost comically small and light; I’ve seen toy guns that looked and felt more like what I think a gun should look and feel like.
Not that I’m any kind of expert on the subject. I did not grow up hunting, or in a gun family. If I remember correctly, my parents owned a .22 back in their homesteading days as part of their chicken defense strategy (to be clear, they were defending the chickens from predators, not defending themselves from the chickens). I’m not sure if the thing was ever fired in anger or even in practice.
I had a BB gun when I was a kid, but after plinking a few Budweiser cans and killing a squirrel or two, that phase passed. About ten years ago, when we decided to take full responsibility for slaughtering our pigs, I purchased a single shot .22 magnum. It has served us well, and would have been a good gun for the boys to learn on, except for the fact that neither one of them was strong enough aim it steadily.
The boys want to hunt and I want to hunt with them. That’s at least a year or two down the road, but clearly, we’ve taken a big first step in that direction. I know many people would recoil at the idea of a 7 and 9 year old in command of what is, inarguably, a weapon capable of deadly force. There was a time when I would have been among them. But the closer I’ve come to the messy reality of raising and slaughtering my family’s meat, the closer I’ve come to the understanding that guns are not conceptual. They possess no inherent characteristics. Whatever traits we ascribe them, we do from the frailty of our humanness, with all the bias, contradiction, and simple misinterpretation that implies.
In short, a gun is a tool. And like all of the other tools on our farm, I aim to provide my boys the opportunity to learn to use it well.