Against Abstinence-Only Gun Education
For the enemies of the right to bear arms, there is no correct age to learn about guns.

(Houston Chronicle Photo/Johnny Hanson)



One man, quoted in the Daily News’s story, offered a downright silly view:

“They shouldn’t be teaching kids how to use guns. What happens when they get older? They might become like that Connecticut killer,” said Cal Castille, 24, of Houston, referring to Newtown gunman Adam Lanza.

They might, I suppose. But there’s no evidence whatsoever that they will. Discussing gun safety with one’s children was once the norm, and not just in that lost Ruritanian past to which the president likes to imagine conservatives are desperate to return. As late as the 1980s, gun clubs remained ubiquitous across America, having been installed as standard into high-school basements in the first half of the 20th century. And, as George Mason’s Walter E. Williams has documented, prior to the passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act, “private transfers of guns to juveniles were unrestricted. Often a youngster’s 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.”


Critics of more muscular defenses of the right to bear arms like to assure the public that they have no problem with hunting and do not wish to undermine longstanding American traditions. What they are after, they say, is “commonsense” and “sane” regulation. With this putative affection for “common sense” in mind, one might ask them: “At what age should a child first be taken hunting?” What is a “commonsense” time to tell your child about guns? At 18, perhaps? Or maybe at 21, to accompany one’s first drink?

The truth of the matter? For the enemies of the right to keep and bear arms there is no correct age. Bill Hutchinson and his ilk consider guns to be a negative thing per se. They don’t want you becoming familiar with weapons in the same way that, regardless of your age, they don’t want you becoming familiar with 50,000 volts of electricity. Weapons, in their view, are inherently destructive. They may pay lip service to hunters and to tradition, but this is no more than a smart tactical ploy. “The photos from the event speak for themselves,” Politic365’s Lauren Victoria Burke wrote this weekend.

The photos from the event “speak for themselves” for me, too. In them, I see supervised kids being taught marksmanship and gun safety by professionals and by their parents; I see children being freed from fear and prepared for life in the real world; most important of all, I see America’s children being instructed by one of the country’s foremost “little platoons” — and in an education system dominated by centralized orthodoxy and stolid progressivism, I can think of little that is more exhilarating.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate at National Review.