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Sorry, We Won’t Be Attending Your Kiddie Birthday Party At The Gun Range

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shooting rangeLet’s be real straight-forward here. There’s no point in pretending like I would be alright with my daughter ever handling a gun before she was an adult who could fully understand the dangers they present. Until she hits the legal voting age, and no longer has to ask me for permission on things, my little girl won’t be visiting a shooting range.

I am anti-gun. I may live in the Midwest, but I have never fired a weapon and I don’t plan to. If my daughter is going to visit someone else’s home, I will actually check to make sure that they keep guns in a locked gun safe at all times. She is not allowed to play with toy guns, because I don’t want her to ever get the impression that guns are a part of a game.

I realize that my views are more extreme than many parents’ out there. I’m not asking anyone to bow to my opinion. I simply choose to keep my daughter away from guns and to teach her that weapons should never be handled by a child. If a friend has a gun, even one that might be a toy, she’s supposed to find an adult. Whether it’s paranoid or not, in 2008 almost 4000 children and teens were treated in the ER for unintentional gunshot wounds. In 2007, 138 kids died from accidental shootings. To me, keeping my child away from guns is a matter of safety.

Some might say that those accidents are the reason why more kids should know how to handle a gun. I’ve had other parents, even family members, who tell me that those 4000 kids should’ve been shown the proper way to handle a weapon. They should have been taken to the shooting range, then maybe we wouldn’t see those statistics. I think that’s a lot pressure and trust to put into young children who are not capable of understanding the life-threatening danger that guns represent. And there is plenty of precedence for not letting children participate in a potentially dangerous activity until their old enough to both understand the consequences of their behavior and mature enough to take responsibility for their actions. Think about both driving and drinking alcohol.

So yes, I think we’ve established that I’m not in favor of my child every using a gun in any capacity. And it’s with that in mind that I look at a new story about a Texas shooting range that is throwing birthday parties for children as young as 8 years old. That’s right, to celebrate a child’s special day, you can take them and their friends to play with guns. And let’s all be clear, by making this a party, children are associating the activity with play.

By hosting a birthday party at the shooting range, it moves beyond a simple parent showing their child about gun safety. Think about the experience from a child’s point of view. Your friends are there. There’s cake. You sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and maybe eat some pizza. And then you go shoot loaded weapons that have the ability to fatally wound people. For a child to lump all those things together, the act of shooting a gun becomes a party game. It’s a fun activity.

I think if you’re expecting children at a birthday party to understand the gravity of dealing with firearms, you’re expecting too much. It’s hard to get them to respect the very finite power of a weapon when they’re having a party.

Honestly for me, this pushes it too far. It goes beyond being a personal choice that every parent has to make for themselves, and it makes a game out of playing with weapons that can actually kill people. I’m not okay with my daughter learning how to use a gun, but I would not try to stop another parent from taking their child to the shooting range and instructing them on gun safety. I have family members who hunt with their children beginning at the age of 10 or 12.

But parties for children to play with firearms? That’s too far. I don’t think that it’s safe and I don’t think that it teaches children the right message about guns. Not only would my daughter not be attending such a celebration, I don’t know that I would be comfortable with her playing with any child who had.