When I was about 10 years old, my father took my older brother and me out to the edge of a corn field at my grandfather’s farm in rural Missouri, placed rifles in our hands and very carefully taught us how to shoot, and do it well. Spending much of the afternoon at it, we shot tin cans off of fence posts, achieving accuracy from roughly 30-40 yards away before moving on to also learning how to use my dad’s revolver, and grandpa’s shotgun.
Throughout my teen years, I remember my dad kept his guns inside our suburban Chicago home, elegantly mounted on his bedroom wall in plain view. The pistol he stored in an unlocked desk drawer in the family room.
The two of us boys always knew exactly where our father’s firearms were, and we were also shown where he kept the bullets. But never once did either of us ever think of touching them, much less shooting someone to resolve a conflict.
We knew that guns could be lethal if toyed with, and that just like fishing, they were best intended for hunting and sport.
Thanks to the men in our family, my brother, little sister and I were exposed to outdoor activities like fishing, hunting, archery and more as children. We had access to the tools and equipment for all of these sports. It didn’t ever cross my mind to point a bow-and-arrow at anything other than a target.
More significantly, my dad’s guns never came to life, climbed down off of the wall, loaded themselves and fired upon anyone. Guns just don’t shoot people or anything else without help, and never have.
So imagine my disdain, then, to see hundreds of Chicago Public School students marching into downtown Chicago recently protesting “gun violence,” and asking that stiffer gun laws be enacted in the wake of 23 young people having been killed throughout the city this year.
I’m the father of a teenager myself, and like any feeling, compassionate person, I’m saddened by the senseless, wasteful loss of life. But instead of venturing out of their neighborhoods and down to City Hall to demonstrate, these kids quite frankly should have been picketing in front of their own homes demanding active, responsible parenting from their parents.
It would have made much more sense to be either in classrooms or marching to the homes of those wannabe thugs in their communities. Laws need to be passed that force parents to parent, or be jailed, and young hoodlums or those aspiring to be should be provided target practice, so they can rid us of their presence and allow innocent bystanders their rightful opportunity to grow up.
No, my parents didn’t know all there is to know about rearing children, but I’m thankful that we kids were disciplined, and had it consistently driven home to us that there were consequences for our actions.
It was instilled in us that there are safe, dignified mechanisms for settling disputes with our peers, namely talking out our differences, agreeing to disagree and shaking hands, walking away and fighting only if unavoidable. And rule No. 1 was to avoid acting out any of these things on school grounds.
Again, in a word, it’s a simple, generations-old concept called “parenting.” People seem to truly enjoy making babies, but for some strange reason just abhor the job of parent.
Child rearing is about arming young people with the three R’s: Basic respect for life, respect for themselves and their elders, and responsibility.
At home, we had to answer for not thinking. There was no tolerance for doing something as idiotic as reaching for a gun like a coward when our parents taught us better.