It was a crisp pre-dawn morning. I had already been up for an hour, lying in bed and waiting for it to get light enough to venture into the living room. When I last saw the Christmas tree the night before, there were a few presents, but I knew there would be more this morning. I crept through the house, stalking the tree, until I saw the glint and mass of a pile of presents. I dared not go any closer, but of course, I had to go wake my parents. I dragged them out of bed, and raced back to the treasure trove.
My eyes settled on a long, thin present propped in the corner behind the tree. I had dreamed about having a bb gun so often I immediately knew what it was. I tore it open and automatically assumed the lever-action rifleman’s stance. Like Ralphie Parker from “A Christmas Story,” I spent the rest of that day playing with my bb gun, all other presents forgotten. Thirty-six years later, that Christmas still stands out in my mind as one of the most memorable. A close second is the year I got my first pump-action pellet gun.
Whether it’s a bb gun, pellet gun, or .22 caliber, getting that first gun is a life-changing event for a young person. It is a vote of confidence from Mom and Dad, making them feel responsible and more respected. It launches them into a new era of maturity, while at the same time opening a door to adventure, fun, and development of a time-honored skill. As their proficiency with the weapon grows, so does their self-confidence. They have a sense they have become more than just children; now they are capable of defending and providing for themselves – an early rite of passage.
Most of us have been through this process, but at the time, it didn’t feel like a challenge at all; it was actually nothing short of awesome. Many of the fondest memories of my youth involve shooting, and I wouldn’t dream of denying the same experience to my own children. I hope you don’t either, and there is no better time for the introduction than the child’s holiday, Christmas.
The sport of shooting has never been safer for young people than it is today. When I was a child, there were no Appleseed or 4H shooting programs, and it was unheard of to actually pay an instructor to teach marksmanship and safe weapons handling. Today, these programs abound, and all it takes to get involved is interest and a phone call. For example, the Dallas Safari Club holds an annual youth training camp, one of their premier events of the year, and they are constantly looking for ways to make it better and more inclusive. There are people everywhere who are happy to get involved with youth shooting, and offer coaching or mentoring as volunteers.
Parents, you will have to make your own decisions as to when your child is ready to get their first gun, but believe me, if you do this for them, their lives will be enriched far beyond the simple gift of a bb gun. Consider your own memories as the proof, and recall again the joy of seeing that long wrapped present. Give your deserving child a Christmas they will never forget.
God bless you and your families during this Christmas season, and I’ll see you on the range! ~Daryl Parker