Jun 1, 2008

Kids, Guns, Safety

Kids and Guns:
Fatal Attraction, Fatally Flawed

A while back, ABC aired a program entitled “Fatal Attraction” hosted by Diane Sawyer discussing kids' reaction to firearms and whether they can be trained to safely handle this technology. Ms. Sawyer unwittingly demonstrated what is wrong with the mass media and the gun culture at the same time.

The episode started with a gun safety lecture given to a group of urban kids with little to no firearms experience. Over the course of several weeks this same group of kids were left in a room alone and presented with a planted handgun. A hidden camera recorded the results. This segment concluded that kids couldn’t be depended to learn how to properly handle a firearm, even after “proper” education. Not surprisingly, the conclusions reached were flawed.

The first flaw was in the education provided. The kids were given one short “gun safety lecture.” No effort was made to show the kids how to properly use the firearms and there was no hands-on experience. They were literally telling kids “Don’t touch this” and then later tempting them with forbidden fruit.

There is a huge difference between knowing and doing. One can tell a kid how to ride a bike, but they won’t really know how until they get on and try. Bikes are dangerous. The rider can fall off or run into something. So the mentor installs training wheels, insists on safety gear, (helmet, pads, etc) and helps with balance. Soon, with a little help, the student can go it alone. Firearms are no different.

There is also a huge difference between “growing up around guns” and being truly skilled. One young man portrayed comes from a family who works in law enforcement. His poor handling was “proof” that training doesn’t work. But the fact is many cops have poor firearms skills and their profession doesn’t automatically qualify them as instructors.

In one segment of the hidden video Ms. Sawyer made the comment that this kid clears a pistol “like a pro”, despite the fact he made the classic novice error of trying to unload a self loading pistol by working the slide before removing the magazine. That level of handling is indicative of someone who learned marksmanship from TV, not at a shooting event.

Another young man who participated in Boy Scouts and earned a merit badge in marksmanship demonstrated poor handling skills as well. This was more “proof” that education doesn’t work.

The simple courses that are offered to Boy Scouts or new hunters are the beginning of knowledge, not the end. The Boy Scouts offer merit badges for Computers, Chemistry, Photography, Plumbing and others. Check http://meritbadge.org for more info and examples. If you were interviewing prospective employees, would you hire someone whose only qualification was “I earned a merit badge when I was in the Boy Scouts…”?

These were the most solid arguments presented that “education doesn’t work” and that “guns are inherently unsafe.” Ironically, some of the kids were later shown enjoying a game of table tennis. In a study the National Safety Council found that Ping Pong had a higher rate of injury than hunting or target shooting.

“Is education the answer?”

The segment posed the question, “Is education the answer?” Think about how ridiculous this statement is by itself. The “journalists” of this segment are questioning the idea that that effort spent in learning about a subject will fail to make an individual more knowledgeable about the said subject.

But the media mongers have already demonstrated that education is indeed the answer, but only if it is the right kind of education. Kids will do as they have been taught. Over the course of many years American kids have been exposed to thousands of hours of gun “play” on TV and in video games. Even a semi-trained marksman can see that almost all these demonstrations portray examples of poor, even reckless, handling.

To counter these thousands of hours of indoctrination these same kids are given one short lecture lasting minutes teaching them the opposite. That’s like giving an obese person one short lecture about proper nutrition and exercise with no hands-on learning, returning in a week or two to find the obese person is still heavy and saying, “Education doesn’t work. You’re still fat.”

The REAL problem

People who shoot classmates or co-workers make national headlines. People who win medals in shooting never earn the recognition they’re due.

Klebold and Harris are national celebrities. Gallagher, Rhode, Barnhart, and Caruso are unknown.

Columbine makes the news. Camp Perry isn’t mentioned.

In the twisted world of the mass media, murdering people with a gun is more newsworthy than using it to win a national championship. The events at the shootings are analyzed ad naseum, often times for years after the fact. Yet, a National champion or Olympic Gold medallist won’t earn one second of airtime.

It seems the real “fatal attraction” lies with the media and their sick priorities. Of course, we gun owners are to blame as well. By failing to promote our activities to the general public, Joe and Jane Average have no idea who represents true expertise. So Joe and Jane get their gun advice from Diane Sawyer instead of Nancy Tompkins-Gallager.

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