Monday, October 31, 2011

Children and Guns

I just finished watching the comedy super-hero movie Kick-Ass, where one of the main characters, 11-year-old Hit Girl, kills dozens of mobsters with guns and knives.

Of course, this reminded me of another assassin little girl, Hanna, a 16-year old girl trained by her father in the backwoods of Finland to become the world's most dangerous assassin. Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, Hanna manages to kill half a dozen CIA agents with her bare hands, and a reindeer.

Let's not forget schoolgirl Ami from The Machine Girl, who, after having her arm amputated by the yakuza, receives a prosthetic machine gun attachment for her stump, and then goes on a murder spree where thousands of gallons of ninja blood are spilled.

Now our list would not be complete without teenage Baby Doll from the movie Sucker Punch, who, after killing her own sister, retreats into a dark messed-up fantasy world in which she kills giant samurai, steam-powered zombie german soldiers and orcs using everything from M-4 automatic rifles and razor-sharp katanas, and let's not forget slitting the throat of a baby dragon, all the while attempting to escape from a Vermont mental institution where she is scheduled to have a lobotomy. Heavy stuff, and super cool.

I have to say it is pretty mind-boggling to see the complete anti-thesis of the male action hero perform such feats. Nothing could be more defenseless than a young girl... except when this young girl is a trigger-happy martial arts expert. And everyone likes to see an underdog triumph against insurmountable odds.

However, these are merely movies, and the defensive use of firearms is never as cool as portrayed in fiction. Using lethal force in self-defense is a serious matter that requires serious training. And the glorification of weapon use in movies and videogames gives children the wrong attitude towards firearms, especially when the shooting sprees are performed by teenage girls. A weapon must always be approached with respect, for its use is always fraught with potential dangers. For this reason, I do not believe that children should be given toy guns and left to their own devices. "What possible harm could come from a toy gun?" the layman asks. Well for one, it trivializes weapon ownership and impairs upon children the wrong attitude to have towards it.

Even a toy gun should be treated with the same safety rules as a real weapon. According to the NRA, these rules are:

1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
2. ALWAYS keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

From the very first day a child is given a toy gun, he must learn that even a toy gun is not a toy. While this seems contradictory on the surface, it is not. A 'toy gun', you see, is a teaching aid. The toy gun should be kept in a gun safe under combination lock or key, which only a responsible adult has the ability to unlock. When requesting the toy gun, the child must explain his intention for checking the toy  gun out. The child should then fill out a form detailing for what duration of time the toy gun will be needed, and then he or she must return it on time. During play, the child should never be allowed to point it at a person or animal, or any object not to be shot at. The only acceptable thing the toy gun can be pointed at is a paper target. That's it. While it may seem to take the whole fun out of the experience, that is part of the point. Guns are not toys. Period. Children must be made to understand this at an early age so that they know it instinctively.

Once the child is of age and he has shown responsible behavior with the toy gun, then perhaps he is ready for his first pellet or BB gun. Again, the same rules for handling and safe storage apply. Marksmanship is a martial art, not a game. Shielding children from violent movies and video games, and hiding the reality of self-defense from them does them a disservice. Sooner or later, the child will not be under your direct supervision, and the child may come into contact with a real firearm. But if you have diligently trained the child to have the proper attitude towards firearms, the child will translate his knowledge of proper safe handling and apply it directly to a real firearm, and there need not be an accident.

We adults know that Kick-Ass and Sucker Punch are just movies, and that weapons are not toys. If you have instructed your children as I describe, they will know it too, and they will be safe.

1 comment:

  1. A rather refreshing point of view, with which I happen to agree.