This is my daughter’s natural habitat. She is a dancer. She’s been working on her 10,000 hours of Mastery since she was five years old. Soon she’ll perform at TEDx Greenville. She’s the bomb. I am bragging.
Later this week, we’re going to the gun range to mark her 16th birthday. It will be the first time she’s ever shot a gun, and for me it will be a throwback to the day my father and his friend took my brother and I “plinking” behind a friend’s house in South Carolina about 30 years ago
She knows that there are guns in our household. Hidden things always become found things, so, a few years ago, I sat my oldest kids down and I told them that I had two guns. I told them that they are for their protection, and they are safe, as long as you don’t handle them. It was the first of many talks, and by the end I had promise to take them both to the range.
I’ve said before that my father took me plinking for the first time, when I was around 10 years old. I can remember shooting his Colt 375 Trooper with a genuine tea-cup grip. We missed the bottles that we’d set up in the distance.
I also remember Mr. Hank, who had come with us. He shot the roof of his Datsun Maxima (It was that long ago) with his rifle.
Mr. Hank is a judge in Greenville now. Back then, he was my father’s closest friend in South Carolina. The day he shot his car, he hadn’t learned to compensate for the difference between the height of the scope and the barrel, and so he shot a sooty groove in the roof of his car. It was just a flesh wound. The car lived.
Still, it was an awesomely imperfect day. I learned about safety and how to load and unload the guns. More importantly, I shed my fear of them.
People who have never handled a gun in a safe space, sometimes come to believe that they are capable of magic. I once had a girlfriend run from the room when she saw an unloaded gun in my dresser drawer. They don’t just go off, like the big round bombs from old-timey cartoons.
Since then my son and I have had more conversations than I can remember. Some of them were inspired by Nerf battles, others by the video games that he plays. I don’t want to hide anything from him, but I am determined that he not grow up with a romantic notion of guns or war. It’s a work in progress.
My daughter has been more direct. She says periodically that she wants me to take her to the range. The minimum age for a lot of gun ranges in the area is 14. That was the first obstacle. But there was something deeper going on. Something that I wouldn’t even talk about with her.
She’s my step-daughter. She has a biological father who is present, active and loves her and her little brother very much. The two of us haven’t always gotten along, but that’s no reflection on his devotion to his children.
I always wondered how he would feel about it. It’s been in the back of my mind, making me put the trip off. He follows the blog now – S’up B’. We’ve had a couple of short conversations about his Grandfather down in Mississippi, who would have done the men in Mound Bayou proud.
Then, there’s the fact that she’ll be 16. In my estimation, if you’re old enough to drive, you’re certainly old enough to start learning about guns.
This Friday we’ll go over all of the basics of safety, as well as talking about her grip. I want her to come away with a healthy respect for it as a tool with lethal potential, but a tool none-the-less.
I’m looking forward to it. Soon we’ll have to teach her how to drive. It’s looming on the horizon like a storm cloud, and it fills me with genuine fear. This will be a walk in the park compared to that. Safer, too.
Note: We went to the range last Friday. She had a blast.
- I didn’t know how many was there was to improperly hold a gun. The highlight was when she asked me if she should pull the trigger with her left thumb. Wha?!
- Looking at her shoot, I realize how much my idea of accuracy has changed in the past year. My goal is a quarter sized group. (I said goal). She was overjoyed that she’d mostly hit the target.
- Next time we’ll do our talking at the kitchen table before we go. I underestimated how difficult it is to talk at a range, when there are people on either side of you shooting, you’ve got ear protection on, and you’re standing in a space the size of an airplane bathroom.
- I wonder how she’d react to some professional intervention.