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Jack Smith

Irate Readers Open Fire on Kid-Gun Issue

September 24, 1987|JACK SMITH

I have already been too riddled by hand gun enthusiasts to write another preachment against handgun possession.

I don't own a gun of any kind. I would be too likely to shoot myself in the foot.

However, I find myself caught in a cross fire between the gun people and the anti-gun people over my report--critical only by innuendo--that a representative of the National Rifle Assn. taught little boys how to shoot at a recent Cub Scout camp-out on Catalina Island.

I did express astonishment at the enormous list of equipment each Cub Scout was urged to take, noting that it was a great deal more than I had to carry in the Marine Corps landing at Iwo Jima. The list included a deodorant and some "spiritual reading."

A defense of this program is offered by David A. Maynard, of Temple City, a Cub Scout leader and training chairman.

Maynard points out that the Cub Scouts carried all that stuff in duffel bags, not back packs, and were not required to carry it long distances. As for the rifle training, he merely noted that if a boy violated safety rules on the firing line he was not punished, as we were in the Marines, by being required to open his rifle bolt with his nose.

"The punishment would more likely be to pick up spent brass, write a paper on proper gun safety, be removed from the firing line, denial of shooting privileges, and in extreme cases being sent home."

I wish they'd just sent me home.

Maynard's explanation for the spiritual reading matter sounds ominous. "Spiritual readings can serve the same purpose as stating religious preference on military dog tags. A fellow scouter may have to hear the last confession of another scouter and need to replay that message to a religious leader that is a member of the scouter's religion."

Makes sense. If you have several hundred little kids shooting rifles on a camp-out, somebody may very well have to take a last confession.

Several readers protested the rifle training:

"Why the Boy Scout administration would want to provide 'rifle activities' for kids attending a camp-out such as you described escapes me," writes Harry M. Schafer of Laguna Hills. "The NRA certainly believes in 'get them young' and bring them up in . . . the use of guns."

"More depressing than the deodorant," writes B. G. Solle of Mission Viejo, "is to read that Cub Scouts have the choice of participating in rifle range activities, supervised by a certified NRA range master. (Pity the youngster who is not given permission by parent or parents to participate. He's a perfect patsy for the others. . . .)"

(By the way, my son permitted his Cub Scout son to take the rifle training at Catalina, probably remembering that I taught him the rules of rifle safety when he was 10. My theory was that sooner or later a small boy is going to encounter another small boy who has a gun. He's safer if he knows how to use one safely. As a reporter, I wrote too many stories about young boys who killed friends who were showing them their guns.)

Meanwhile, friends say I shouldn't disclose that my wife and I are going on a vacation. They say it will encourage burglars to pillage our house, thinking it unguarded. I am not worried. For one thing there is very little in our house that would profit a burglar, and very little that would suit the average burglar's life style.

All we have of value is about 500 cookbooks, 150 pairs of shoes, the complete works of Will and Ariel Durant, the complete works of Shakespeare, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the recorded works of Mozart and Beethoven, a microwave oven, a couple of television sets, and an unused stationary bicycle. My wife also has several hundred dress patterns, which would never be missed.

However, if any burglar finds these items attractive, I warn him that in our absence our house will be occupied by a grown man. He is not only a very responsible man and an experienced house sitter, he is also a musical scholar, and I do not think he would take kindly to any threat against the Mozart and Beethoven records.

Whether he owns a gun or not I don't know. I didn't ask him. But I wouldn't want to test him.

As for me, all I ever shot at was paper targets.

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