A recent story from North Carolina caught my eye. In all certainty, it won’t be reported on the mainstream news, or anything outside of the actual area where this is happening, but a North Carolina man, who has an extensive background in gun-handling and safety, is teaching children as young as six about gun safety.
Michael Pegram, founder of Echo Firearms Training in Mint Hill, North Carolina, told WBTV: “There was no other class like this. So, I decided to come up with it.”
The children of his class reportedly spend about four hours, both in the classroom and shooting. Pegram says that, “It’s the parents’ choice of what their kids should be around. I’m just offering a class to let them learn to be safe, if they’re going to be around them.”
Seeing as North Carolina is a concealed-carry state, this class makes a lot of sense.
But it should be noted that it’s not a class where kids simply are given “military-style” or “assault” weapons. Far from it, they work their way up from using and shooting a Nerf gun (that also happens to be how I started out) and eventually get to shoot nothing more powerful than a .22 or a 9mm.
Pegram says: “A lot of times they’re not shooting a nine-millimeter. But once in a blue moon, if they know what they’re doing, and I know they can do it, we have done that.”
WBTV also asked parents about this subject, with mixed results. Some parents were concerned about the program, while others were happy about it. A pretty normal result, all things considered.
One man said: “My daughter’s five years old. And thinking of her shooting a gun, it’s kind of crazy.” Another man said: “It seems like a bad idea.” But they were also open to the idea being a good one at least for older children. The same man who said he thought it was a bad idea went on to say: “If we’re going to have guns in this country, one of the things we need is really strict training classes.”
And the man who mentioned he had a five-year-old later said: “On one hand, maybe it’s good to teach gun safety. But then on the other hand, that would be my one concern, is it would make kids comfortable handling guns, and could lead to more accidents, possibly.”
Other parents, however, were happy with the idea of a course that taught young kids about gun safety, with one saying: “If we keep it away from the kids, they most likely will want to mess with it.”
One 9-year-old who recently graduated from the course told WBTV a little about what he learned, with things like: “If you see a gun, tell your parents,” and “Never point a gun at people.”
Pegram also mentions that the purpose of the course is to take away the unknown from the children. “And they have the knowledge to be safe when they do come across a gun.”
As mentioned earlier, Pegram has an extensive background in gun-handling and safety. He is an NRA-certified handgun instructor and range safety officer with over 30 years of experience handling firearms, has a concealed carry permit and is an instructor for those who wish to receive one of their own in North Carolina. He also reportedly has 24-hours of South Carolina Law Enforcement Department training and his company, Echo, provides courses for adults surrounding much of the same topics of firearms safety and handling, as well as self-defense and has a course for teachers about how to respond to an active shooter.
Suffice it to say, the man is well-qualified to be teaching firearm safety to children.
Now, what am I thoughts on all of this? Given the tone of the article thus far, you can guess that I approve of this.
Let’s review some of the comments made by the concerned parents.
But before that, I will say that I don’t blame them for their skepticism.
The idea of a five-year-old firing a gun can seem crazy. And to acknowledge the point of one of the parents, having kids be more comfortable handling guns could potentially lead to more accidents in as far as a child using a gun is more likely to get into an accident than a child not using a gun.
And that makes sense, as the likelihood of an accident occurring with a firearm increases with just the use of it. But then again, the whole point of these classes is to get kids used to handling a gun and handling it safely.
I’d much easier trust a child with a gun if he or she knows how to use it than I would trust an adult with a gun if he or she does not know how to use it. I often call guns “the great equalizer” not simply because they can be used by people who are physically weaker than their attackers but because they can be used by anyone who knows how to use them to great effect.
Children who learn how to use firearms safely and responsibly are more likely to grow up with that mindset, knowing perfectly well how to use guns to defend themselves should the need ever arise.
But what matters more than anything else, regardless of whether or not you agree that this sort of class is a good idea, is that children are taught the right things.
For example, one parent mentioned that kids might mess with guns if you try to keep them away from them. While he and I agree that this course is a good idea, that is not exactly a good argument. We keep alcohol away from kids too and no one suggests we train them on how to drink responsibly (until they are of legal age, at least). And besides, children can be kept from trying to mess with a gun by simply teaching them the right things.
For me, when I have children, I will teach them how to use weapons maybe around the age of 6, 7 or 8 (provided my wife also approves). Naturally, I will have at least one gun (likely more) in my house by the time I have children, so before I teach them how to use a gun, I must first instill the fundamental knowledge that a gun is not a toy and they are not allowed to mess with it, otherwise they could get hurt.
What is important is to teach them the right things the right way. My mother would sometimes tell me of how obedient I would be, even at an age when one wouldn’t think I’d be able to understand any command. When she would tell me not to do something, I would not do it. And while children often will vary in their obedience to their parents, I don’t doubt that I was raised the right way and will do the same with my own children.
Obviously, I would keep guns away from my very young children. Once they got old enough to ask why, I would carefully explain to them that guns aren’t toys and that if they were to play with one, they could get seriously hurt or worse. However, I would ensure them that guns aren’t inherently bad, but that they can cause some bad damage if one is not careful with them (and I would explicitly prohibit my children from actually holding a gun until me and my wife decide they are old enough).
Once they are old enough to be taught how to wield a gun, I would start them off with a Nerf gun, like I did and like how these children in Pegram’s course are. What is essential to be learned from the get-go about guns is to be safe with them and practice wielding a Nerf gun as one would a real one (gun pointed at the ground away from you but also away from other people, wielding arm at the side and pointed down, finger off the trigger at all times except when with the intention to shoot, correct hand and thumb placements of one over the other, correct stance, safety always on until you feel the need to fire, etc.)
Teaching gun safety is no easy task and it’s not to be taken so casually as teaching them how to read or write. A lot is at stake in this particular teaching course and it must be handled with extreme care so as to avoid accidents as much as possible.
I believe teaching children how to safely and responsibly wield and treat guns at an early age is a good thing, but it absolutely must be done the right way with the right measures being taken.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
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