March 07, 2006

Children are Authoritarians

My son, while reading about presidents and worrying about assassinations, declared one day at lunch that guns should be outlawed so no one would get shot ever again.

Children are totalitarians. They see a problem and want to find a law that will make sure it never happens again.

My son's proposition presented me with an interesting dilemna. I'm not a lover of guns. I've never shot one. I'd rather not have one in my house. However, I do not oppose their possession by citizens and banning them is a foolish and misguided action.

Thus, when my son suggested that all guns should be outlawed, I asked him what it meant to be a criminal. A criminal, we concluded was some one who did not obey the laws. Would someone, I asked, who already did not obey the laws, listen to a law that banned guns. We agreed that that would be unlikely. So, who, we discussed would lose the ability to have guns? People who obey the laws and aren't hurting people with guns. We talked about how some times law abiding people with guns have been able to prevent crimes or stop criminals from hurting more people.

My son was certainly interested in the conversation and began to see that banning guns wasn't as easy as he had thought. "But," he said, "guns are dangerous." I told him that wasn't as easy as he thought to answer either. When his uncle brings his gun to our house and sticks it, locked on top of the refrigerator where no one can reach it, it isn't much more dangerous than the box of cereal we have up there. But, we also discussed how a gun, as with any other tool, like his dad's tablesaw, could be dangerous if you played around with it, didn't treat it as a serious instrument and got too comfortable and casual around it. We discussed how kids sometimes found guns, assumed they were empty and got hurt playing with them. We also talked about how, when he's older, if he has any interest in learning more about guns, he can got out with his uncle to a shooting range and learn to use one safely.

We then came back to the idea of people protecting themselves and their property from criminals by owning guns. Instead of wanting to ban guns anymore, The Boy was now concerned because we didn't own one.

I'm still not ready to go gun shopping. I'm not even ready to go to a shooting range, but I was glad I could put one authoritarian impulse from the short set to rest.


Don't tell Terry but I also do not own a gun. He might drop us both from the AoW.

I think your discussion with your son was right on. Children need to understand that a lot of things are dangerous.

I was allowed to hunt alone when I was 8 or 9 but only after being drilled on safety. I grew up way out in the country and everyone had guns but I do not recall anyone ever being shot accidentally.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at March 7, 2006 10:38 AM

You know this advice will come back to bite you when it gets repeated at the hippie German school, right? Good for you for giving it anyway.

Posted by: Frazier at March 7, 2006 12:43 PM

I think you handled that very well! In a similar conversation with my son (same age) Hubby and I have used similar analogies.

I recommend you spend a couple of hours at a shooting range even once. My husband took me once and I hope to go again. Going took the fear of the unknown out of me. Learning to handle one properly left me with a real sense of respect (not fear) for the power of the gun, and a strange heightened awareness in the moment because I was paying such close attention to every detail. It was a worthwhile experience.

Posted by: Jennifer at March 7, 2006 07:45 PM

Larry, I think you'd probably recall if someone had shot you. I don't think it's the sort of thing one forgets.

I was anti-gun for the longest time, but I think I'm being persuaded the other way. I don't think I'd ever own one myself, but I think I understand better the need for others.

Posted by: skinnydan at March 8, 2006 07:47 AM

Jordana, that's the best and most thoughtful post I have read in a long time on the subject. Whether Boy ever decides to pick up a gun or not, at least he's got some rational background to use in order to make that decision.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at March 8, 2006 10:58 AM

Jordana, you're good.

Posted by: Patricia at March 10, 2006 12:55 AM

I was a communist as a child. I recall suggesting to my parents that what we needed to do to take care of all the poor people was take everyone's money, put it in a big pile and give everyone an equal amount.

I've since learned that one wouldn't work.

Posted by: Alan at March 10, 2006 11:16 PM

While driving past my town on our way to the western NC office, my former boss observed that we had a couple of gun shops in town (she lives in Raleigh, which I would bet also has a couple of gun shops, or at least places you could buy a firearm!). Boss declared she wouldn't want to live in a town where gun shops had such a prominent presence. Later, I thought, "Hey- I wouldn't want to burgle in such a town!" Too late to be a rejoinder, though.

Posted by: Lenise at March 11, 2006 02:46 PM