Some of my European readers are going to be completely lost here; I realize England isn't exactly known for its Free Glocks to Toddlers program. And even in the U.S., you can't just walk into a Wal-Mart in New York City or Chicago, buy a .357 Magnum and be ass deep in your shooting spree before lunch.
But even to a lot of other American readers (or whatever other gun-loving country you're from), the idea of letting a kid use a gun is fucking insane. "What, you want him to accidentally shoot his brother and four of the neighbors, and then himself?"
All while being shirtless?!
But Here's the Thing ...
Where I'm from, guns are as common as cars, easier to buy than sinus medicine and many kids know how to fire them before they even learn their multiplication tables. This is a farming and hunting community, guns are used to put food on the table or to keep coyotes out of the chicken coop. Hell, kids here get an excused day out of school on the first day of deer season. That sounds like a joke; I assure you it's not.
Now, here's the thing ... I don't own a gun. And I've seen one of my kids accidentally punch himself in the face, so the idea of him even holding a gun is enough to give me an anxiety attack. But what's in my house is of little consequence when you consider that most of his friends do have them. They're part of the landscape here.
In fact, a whole section of our high school marching band is more heavily armed than our local police department.
Even if we're assuming perfectly responsible parents who keep unloaded weapons locked inside a gun cabinet, we're talking about curious children here. They know where you hide the Christmas presents. They know where you keep your porn. Unless you keep it inside your own asshole, they will find that key. Even then, I'm not so sure they couldn't get it without you noticing. One of my kids once stole a PlayStation disc from me while I was playing it.
Now, here's where things really start making me nervous. Every contact my kids have had with guns has been on a fantasy level. Playing Halo and Modern Warfare on the Xbox. Playing with their Nerf guns, which are designed to be shot at humans ... the newest set is comprised of Velcro darts that stick to special T-shirts.
I'm not one of those people who thinks that movies and games turn ordinary people into raging psychopaths, shooting up schools while shouting out the Ten Commandments. But I'm also not ignoring the fact that the only lesson they've had about guns so far is, "Point at a human and pull the trigger to make fun occur." In this part of the country, they have to learn what a gun is, what it does and how to handle one without killing or maiming themselves or someone else.
"OK, now in this exercise, you want to shoot as close to your dad as possible without hitting him. It'll teach you control."
So this year, I went back on my word and got them BB guns for Christmas. Yes, it's not quite the same thing as a 12-gauge shotgun, but it makes me feel a lot better knowing that I can teach them about gun safety without the fear of becoming a newspaper headline.
It's yet another compromise, and you've probably noticed that's pretty much the running theme of this article.
You see this one on a lot of family based sitcoms. A kid comes home from school with a black eye, and the parents flip out. The dad awkwardly tries to teach the kid how to fight while the mother protests. The child ends up going back to school and fighting the bully, where he gets his ass kicked again. Then it's wrapped up with an "I told you so" moment from the mother, followed by the lesson, "Fighting never solves anything."
Hell, I've even written about how telling an adult is the safest, most surefire way to get rid of a bully, and I stick by that advice.
"I'm telling you, Mom, if he takes my lunch money tomorrow, I'm sticking his bitchass to a wall with a fucking katana."
But Here's the Thing ...
When I was a kid, I had a guy that just would not let up with his harassment. I told my mom, and nothing happened. I told my teachers and the principal. Not only did it not help, but it got worse. Now, I was the pussy who couldn't fight his own battles, and I got endless torment over it.
Then one day, while watching a friend of mine in a little league baseball game, the guy showed up again and cornered me away from the rest of the adults. I got pretty scared and yelled out for help, but it didn't work because everyone at the game was making enough noise that my voice just sort of blended in. That, or they were all secretly taking bets on how much blood I could lose before going into a coma.
So when he started his shit, I did the only thing I could do ... I flipped out and started blindly throwing punches while screaming and crying. Basically the same thing I do while having sex.
Let me introduce you to the working end of an orgasm, baby!
Did I win? I don't know, that wasn't the point. About 20 seconds in, we were both out of breath, and he just stopped. It was the last time he ever messed with me, and I don't say that in a bragging "I'm such a badass" way. I was an awkward 9-year-old kid with no strength, power or finesse. I couldn't have been a badass if I had a genie's lamp that granted three wishes and dispensed free steroids.
My point is, I think every single person reading this has a similar story. Yep, violence is bad. Nonviolence is awesome. But you want to tell me that there's never a time to fight? Bullshit.
The first time my own kids encountered a bully, I had to sit down with them and tell them as honestly as I could that they should never go out starting fights or specifically looking for one. But if they found themselves in a situation where nobody could help, they wouldn't be in trouble with me or their mom if they had to throw punches in order to protect themselves.
Despite what the self-defense books tell you, licking them into submission rarely ever works.
No, it's not always the best solution. But, standing there and taking punches while nobody comes to your rescue is the quickest way to tell a bully, "You can do this to me anytime you want. I'm easy prey."
So yes, kids, sometimes the world is an imperfect place, riddled with assholes. And no, we won't always be there to protect you. If we're not honest about that as parents, what good are we?