Target sports teach young people to accept personal responsibility.
Some progressives think that guns are too dangerous to have at home and assume “gun safety” means avoiding guns entirely. Such an approach may protect very young children but it ignores an important part of parenting which is to teach children to master challenges and thereby learn self-confidence. The condemnation of guns is a war on traditional cultural values, particularly the importance of fathers in teaching children self-discipline and self-respect.
What should parents do?
Parents must do more than just protect children from danger. Parents have the responsibility to teach children how to handle challenging, even dangerous, tasks. This is true for pre-school children through young adults. Parents should help children master complex skills so they gain confidence in their ability to face challenges as they grow. Self-respect can be gained by learning how to tie one’s own shoe laces, wash dishes, or how to swim, and when they’re old enough, by learning how to handle knives and firearms properly.
The target sports offer a wonderful opportunity for pre-teens and young adults to take serious steps toward maturity. Learning how to handle firearms safely confers important benefits beyond being able to hit a target, without “shooting your eye out.” Teaching young people how to shoot is a great way to help pre-teens and adolescents to learn discipline, responsibility, and self-respect.
Almost all Canadians who own firearms do so to hunt or shoot targets. Over two million Canadian civilians – men and women – own and use firearms every day in a safe and responsible manner. Hunters use firearms for putting food on the family table; many families enjoy target shooting; farmers and orchardists rely upon firearms to protect their livestock, crops and other property from predators, and many households find firearms useful for protection against predators and criminals.
Shooting and martial arts
The shooting sports should be considered part of the martial arts. Many parents enroll their pre-teens or adolescents in martial arts classes in order to teach them life skills as well as for the physical exercise. Some take up a martial art because they were bullied, but they soon discover that the martial arts include more than self defence skills, they constitute a philosophical life style. Rather than promoting violence, involvement in martial arts promotes virtue as an essential part of a healthy life. Martial arts teaches young people how to properly channel aggression, respect for rules, politeness in dealing with others, and self-discipline. Part of the challenges faced by adolescents is to learn how to deal with frustration and anger that everyone encounters in the world. Research suggests that involvement in martial arts reduces violent or aggressive behavior. This also is the case for teens involved in the shooting sports.
Learning to handle firearms safely, whether taught by a family member, or through joining a respectable community organization (Canadian Cadets, Boy Scouts, a local gun club, an independent firm, or a 4H club), allows a young person to learn self-respect, self-control, confidence, and courtesy; such skills are much more important than merely knowing how to hit a target. Generations of young people have learned to accept personal responsibility through being taught how to handle firearms. A classic study in Rochester, New York found that high school students whose parents had taught them to shoot had fewer delinquency problems than their peers. (See Table 13, page 18).
To sum up
It is an error to think guns are too dangerous to have at home. A narrow focus on protection ignores the importance of teaching children how to handle challenging, even dangerous, tasks. Gun bans and “gun free” zones are not sufficient to solve the problem of “gun violence.” Instead of the “nanny state,” we should encourage responsible parenting and traditional family values. Schools should encourage routine gun-safety training and marksmanship, so people young and old develop a proper respect for firearms, as Canadian schools used to do. Such an approach would increase opportunity for healthy growth and promote responsible citizens.