In the society we currently live in, it seems that there’s never a good time to say,” shooting guns can be great for kids”.

What do I mean by that?

Does it mean that handing a loaded submachine gun to a small child with no prior training is a good idea? Of course not and sadly, Charles Vacca, the now infamous instructor in Arizona, and that little girl, have both paid the price for a mistake he made. Him with his life, and and that poor girl a life-long memory of horror and regret. I’ve taken multiple NRA courses, and spent countless hours at shooting ranges and among avid hunters and gun enthusiasts and the the feeling is all the same on this subject- infuriation that this is what some people think is the norm for gun owners/enthusiasts.

There are proper ways to teach children to shoot- and yes, even an uzi. A good shooting class and education program, whether for an adult or a child (remember there are adults that know nothing of guns either) involves learning the rules of gun safety before even touching a gun. Getting back to a child’s class, often their first time shooting is done prone,typically from the bench position as defined by NRA standards for stability. Usually the guns would be .22 LR or 17HMR rifles with minimal recoil. They are given only one cartridge at a time, and if any rules are broken from their gun safety portion of the class, such as improper trigger discipline or veering the muzzle away from the designated safe direction, the whole class stops for more drilling. Much would be the same teaching the Uzi class. The child is handed one cartridge, and upon the instructor seeing he/she has mastered that, can decide to give two, to practice two round burst training and discipline, then three, etc until the child has proficiently learned to do it correctly.

Onto the benefits-

Shooting a rifle accurately requires a quiet mind. Lining up the front sight on a distant target takes concentration, which can be equally hard to train an adult to do as a child (especially when teaching proper focal points). Breath control and awareness of heartbeat and body “sway” play into the concentration, and leads up to the ability to pull the trigger at precisely the right moment. Large-motor skills are needed to hold a rifle steady. Correct trigger control and pull takes small motor skills.  Combining the two together, along with the concentration on focal point, breath, heartbeat, and sway engages the whole brain. Marksmanship is an exercise in true hand, eye, body, AND mind coordination. It is as far from mindless as some people may like to portray it.

Again, it has to be done right. You don’t buy a kid a rifle and let her keep it in their room,  or decide because you’ve explained the dangers of guns to your child you can leave one unattended because you child “knows better”. You lock them up and only allow them to have them under direct supervision.

Shooting, like many other activities and sports has key elements that become ritual with proper training . You build a process, or series of processes, with reasons, and  never alter the process, because doing so is a matter of life and death. Taching a child to slow down, clear mind and go through these essential processes are invaluable developmentally. An added benefit to teaching children to shoot is proving to them that they are valued and respected, which as we should know from our experience as children, can be one of the larger struggles a child has- not feeling respected. By inviting a child to go shooting you are essentially telling them that you trust their ability to listen, concentrate, and LEARN.. For young people accustomed to being told no constantly, constrained, belittled, ignored (a pretty big- and rising- problem thanks to our needs for constant social media distractions via cell phones), inviting them to accompany you on what is t”adult activity”  can be an important bonding experience, and extremely empowering. You’re basically inviting them into your “club” and will be more likely to listen to other aspects better as well, making them better rounded individuals who carry a new confidence about them.