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Ventura County Perspective | PERSPECTIVE ON GUN SAFETY

Parents, Teach Your Children

Those who choose to keep firearms in the home must educate the young about their destructive power. Naivete provides no protection.

June 21, 1998|E. KENT WILLIAMS | The Rev. E. Kent Williams is pastor of Wells Road Baptist Church in Ventura. E-mail: kwilliam@becknet.com

Guns are here to stay. I know that there are some who are in denial over this fact, but as long as there are predators in our midst good men will need firearms to defend themselves and their families.

Our founding fathers in their wisdom gave all Americans a constitutional right to keep firearms to ensure that we will always be citizens and never again subjects, and that we may be able to defend ourselves from the baser elements of our society.

Our federal government estimates that one out of two homes has a firearm present. The major reason that children are accidentally shot each year is that adults who choose to keep firearms in their homes do not take the time to educate their children of the inherent danger of guns. Parents who choose to have guns in the home should take time to teach the children of their destructive power.

My grandfather was a farmer in Carpinteria. When I was growing up, he kept his shotgun right by the back door for shooting woodpeckers and rats. I was the eldest of seven children. We never touched the gun because he had told us not to. He had taken time to let us handle it and watch him shoot it. He even let me clean it a few times. Because of his wisdom, we had firsthand knowledge of its potential for destruction.

The naivete of anti-gun groups will cause more children to die needlessly. One group calling itself Ceasefire has ads on television and directs the viewer to the group's website, www.ceasefire.org. At every point in the site, the reader is first counseled to get rid of his handguns. This will never happen. But in fairness I must point out that the site encourages parents to talk to their children about the danger of guns. This should be the primary point. Don't we teach our children to never take a ride from strangers, and not to use drugs? If they can learn these principles, they can surely learn to not touch a firearm without permission. If all American children learned this, then gun locks would become unnecessary.

I have six children. They have all been taught to respect our firearms, from the MAK 91 (a semiautomatic AK-47 clone) rifle I own for target shooting, to our replica 1851 Colt revolver. My youngest has been shooting a semiautomatic handgun since he was 4 with my supervision. None of my children will even touch a gun without permission from an adult. Because my children are familiar with our firearms, they respect them.

Just recently two children in the Los Angeles area were visiting the business of a friend. One of them found a hidden handgun and out of ignorance, thinking it was a toy, killed her playmate. My 9-year-old daughter said, "How could she have not known it was real, Daddy? Real guns are much heavier than toy guns."

I have taught the National Rifle Assn.'s "Eddie Eagle" program to our church youth group and all of the children in our neighborhood. The four easy to remember principles of "Stop! Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult." are learned by children from kindergarten to high school.

This award-winning program has been taught to more than 10 million children since 1988 in schools and youth groups all across our nation with huge results. In 1993 it was awarded the National Safety Council's Citation for Outstanding Community Service. The American Legion gave it the 1995 National Education Award. This year, Virginia Gov. James Gilmore officially recognized March as Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Month in Virginia. The 15,600 elementary students in all 32 of Richmond's schools learned its four lifesaving principles. If this program was taught in our local school system many children's lives would be saved.

Let us not confuse the issues we are facing in our society. In two recent tragedies we learned that some children will use firearms in a murderous way no matter what they know about them. To these people the gun is nothing more than the instrument for their evil intent.

We have learned that the young man in Springfield, Ore., was from an anti-gun family with no formal training in gun handling. He took it upon himself to illegally obtain his firearms, authorities have said, and now stands accused of killing his parents and schoolmates. On the other hand the young boys from Jonesboro, Ark., had learned gun handling, but authorities say they also obtained their guns illegally. Familiarity with firearms is not the issue. Coldblooded, murderous conduct is.

Young people who shoot to kill are not victims, they are murderers. The existence of guns does not make them kill; something else does. As one of my youth group kids observed recently, Cain killed Abel with a rock.

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