I’m sure most seniors did things early in life that they now look back on as irresponsible and foolish. I did my share. Perhaps my biggest life blunder had to do with misuse of rifles and firearms, and I’m not the only kid having done so.
I grew up owning guns and still do. When I was six years old, Dad gave me an air-powered Daisy BB rifle. My older brother, Jim, already owned one. The only advice Dad offered us, was a warning to treat any gun as if it was loaded, don’t point them at anyone, and never look down the barrel unless you know for sure a bullet’s not in the chamber. For the most part, we followed his rules all but one.
Other kids in the trailer park also had BB guns, and on occasion, a friendly BB gun war would start. It looked like fun so Jim and I joined in. The Moon Brothers were always on our side along with another friend, Randy Coggins.
The opposing team was generally made up of a group of boys from base housing which was located next to our mobile homes. Craig Air Force Base in Selma, Alabama was the military installation where our dads worked, and they provided small duplex-style houses for some of the families.
Sufficient distance was maintained between teams so that BBs wouldn’t penetrate skin. When hit, the round pellets would sometimes smart and leave a red whelp. I don’t recall anyone getting seriously hurt. Usually, we had to arc a BB so that it traveled the required distance. We learned to lob our Mini projectiles with extreme accuracy. It’s amazing that no eyes were struck although we were smart enough to hide behind trees and bushes.
In fifth grade, I was given a Stevens .22 rifle for Christmas. Evidently, my folks saw me responsible enough to own a real firearm. It was a bolt action single-shot model. At this time we lived on Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas, where the discharge of firearms was strictly prohibited. Our trailer home sat directly next to the flight line, with T-33, T-37, and T-38 trainers parked close by.
Jim and I found a way around this government roadblock. Our trailer was fifty feet long. We’d take a .22 cartridge and remove the copper bullet. Dumping out all the powder, the bullet was then reinserted into its brass casing. Primer explosion alone was enough to send it flying.
When fired, you could actually see a bullet leave the end of the barrel. Much like a BB gun, the slow-moving projectile had to be arced just right to hit the bullseye. That target, in most cases, was taped to a cardboard box sitting on my parent’s bed. The bullet would barely have enough power to penetrate anything.
Several times, Mom came home saying that she smelled gunpowder. She never did catch on to what we were doing until many years later. It was only then that we told her. Mother told us she had her suspicions yet could never pin things down.
In Alaska, I had opportunity to take a firearms safety course taught by my seventh-grade teacher, Mr. Bob Hickey. This should’ve been something offered to us boy’s years prior but wasn’t. I’m sure both parents would’ve allowed Jim and me to attend had there been a class available. Undoubtedly, we would’ve taken ownership of our rifles including BB guns much more seriously.
I’ve come a long way where firearms safety is concerned from my juvenile days. My children were taught early on to treat even their toy pistols and rifles as if they were the real thing. That might seem like overkill to some people, yet it helped get the message across to them.
My grandchildren visited us here in Havasu several months ago. I made sure to secure all weapons in our gun safe beforehand. When eight year old Decker walked up holding a small plastic case I freaked. He’d discovered it under a curio cabinet.
I immediately took the box from him and opened it. Inside was an 1850s antique Pepperbox pistol, that fortunately, wouldn’t fire without all the proper components. I’d placed it under the cabinet and forgot. He was curious enough to have already taken a peek.
Decker told us afterwards, that he’d found a pistol at a friend’s house in their basement during a birthday party. My grandson definitely needed training on what to do when coming across such items, and I gave him my grandfatherly spiel on such.
Sadly, firearms training seems to be nonexistent in public and private schools. Each week there are horror stories on the news regarding accidental shootings. The very least a school can do, is teach children what to do should they find a pistol or rifle. Most children learn about guns only through what they see on television, movies, and graphic video games.
The NRA released a short animated video several years ago that’s excellent in educating youth. This video has been well received by gun advocates and gun foes on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s available on YouTube for free and is only eight minutes long. That short and entertaining lesson featuring, Eddie Eagle, might be just enough to save your child’s life.
I sent the link to my grandson Decker to share with his sisters and friends. Hopefully, the message will leave a lasting impression on their developing minds.
I’m glad my father at least instructed my brother and I on the basics of firearm safety. Sadly, even that simple lesson is not being taught to small children these days by some gun owning parents. That’s a huge life blunder and one that could end up having serious consequences, much like an unlocked swimming pool gate with toddlers around.