Crossfire April 2021 Issue


What Age?

I read the article by John Taffin, one of my all-time favorite gun writers, regarding the Ruger Bearcat. He states he presented his granddaughter a Bearcat at age 10. I know countless children have been successfully introduced to firearms at a very early age. Nevertheless, I’ve personally struggled with when to allow my children, and now grandchildren, to first fire a gun (under my supervision of course). I have historically waited until they were 16 at least. In the age of videogame character instant resets, at what age do children really grasp what death means should they make a mistake? I’m not an anti-gun crackpot, just the opposite, but I truly struggle with the concept of when to introduce children to target shooting. Maybe Dr. Dabbs can weigh in? Keep up the good work! You publish my favorite gun magazine hands down.
John Nagel

That’s a great question, brother. This will seem unduly verbose because I’ll likely cut and paste some of it into a column.

Seems to me it all depends upon the kid, the parents, and the environment. My homeschooled kids were raised way out in the boonies in the Deep South (an area steeped in the gun ethos) by parents who were totally immersed in their upbringing. Our world was awash in weapons, all of which were properly secured. Proper gun handling was ruthlessly enforced. They could play with the guns any time they wanted so long as I was there supervising. My boys could field strip an AK blindfolded by age 8. My daughter thought it was silly and never would participate.

I had a little exercise I would run from time to time. I’d clear a handgun and leave it on the dinner table. The first kid to spot it was expected to report to me that there was an unsecured gun in the house. Failure to do so resulted in a gentle non-threatening discussion and corrective action.

By contrast, there are some teenaged males I wouldn’t trust unsupervised with gum, much less a live weapon. Were the kid in question a grandchild over whom I had little day to day supervision I would make a sober assessment as to whether tasting guns during infrequent visits might help or hinder based upon their personalities.

Kids are fascinated with firearms, particularly little boys. To fight that is to push against our very natures. Homo sapiens is a warrior species. A former Delta Force commander once wrote that you can try to raise your man-child without toy guns if you like, but just don’t be surprised when he chews his toast into the shape of a pistol and shoots you with it. 

Kids are concrete thinkers and are unable to process higher order concepts like life and death before a certain age. That certain age varies by the kid. I once met a 12-year-old who tried to stab his mother to death with a pencil. The ER was filled with 17-year-old gladiators who had given or received gunfire. There were consequences to all of that, but none of them really appreciated the gravitas of their actions. That’s honestly why 19-year-olds make the best soldiers. 

Should we eventually be blessed with grandchildren we will likely shoot together. We’ll do that carefully and under controlled circumstances. However, if that kid played violent video games all the time and talked incessantly about stylized killing that would obviously shape the narrative.

Your mileage may vary, but that’s what worked for us. —Will

Coincidentally, I covered the same topic in the GUNS Insider this month (see p. 74)! —BW

Travelin’ Man

Reading Brent Wheat’s article “To become an editor” in the Feb 2021 issue, I concur with his assessment travel for work certainly can get old, having done much for a couple of years after I retired from the Police Department. I have to argue being stranded in Wichita is not such a bad thing, as I have been “stranded” here since 1968. Wichita is a great town, having served 33 ½ years with the Wichita Police Department. If you get stranded here again, give me a call, I can show you the sites, and the sights!
Captain Darrell Haynes (Ret.)

I hope “stranded in Wichita” didn’t sound like I hated the town — it was a matter of being stranded ANYWHERE right before Christmas, plus I was going to miss a granddaughter’s birthday party. I was there for a media event and things were wonderful; I was very pleased with the Hard Rock and the airport was simple to navigate. But — I just wanted to get home!

I’ll keep your email handy next time I’m there! —BW