During the next few years — before you leave home and strike out on your own — you will be required to make hundreds of decisions that will affect your destiny on our crowded planet. Your parents and friends will counsel and give advice if you need it. Movie actors, politicians and many others will also attempt to influence you.

But ultimately, you alone will be responsible for making good choices — for fitting into society with skills and opinions that enrich your community. (Basically, you will be responsible for being a good citizen.)

Learn Before Judging

One topic that you will often hear and read about is guns. Opinions can become extreme and emotions inflamed when discussing these objects. The less you listen to those who angrily, stridently shout about guns, the more informed you may be.

Chances are, you will not serve in the military or with a law enforcement agency. If you do serve or choose such a career, you will learn about guns from professionals. Guns will become a natural and well-understood part of your environment.

If you do not serve in the military or law enforcement, a balanced appreciation for guns in the world will be more difficult to develop. Understand that you are continuously inundated with very negative advertisements and subjected to a flood of false information disguised as facts.

So Here Is the Truth…

A gun is a tool (like the submersible mixer in the kitchen, the chain saw in the garage or the smartphone in your hands). As a tool, a gun is designed for a specific purpose — although ultimately it may fit many uses. A shotgun may be used to shoot flying clay disks (called “pigeons”) in skeet or trap competition or for hunting pheasants.

You can fire six-shooters at targets from the back of racing horses, and law enforcement officers carry them to arrest bad guys. And in this uncertain world, your family may even use them for protection.

A firearm is simply one type of tool that shoots a projectile. Your archery bow shoots an arrow. Your arm throws a spear. The Nerf Gun you had as a child fired foam darts. Rockets boost men into space.

Of course, guns can be used improperly or carelessly. And when that happens, people might get hurt or even die. Although it seems — perhaps based on what you hear so often from television and celebrities — that this happens often, it is in truth quite rare. That is especially so when compared to the number of people hurt in car or even hospital accidents. And in spite of what a misinformed person may tell you, the United States is far down the list of countries where “gun violence is out of control.”

A Right Worth Learning About

The truth is that by being born in America, you have been selected to share in a very profound heritage. Nowhere else in the world are normal citizens — people like you and I — allowed to own a variety of guns. Our Constitution, the document that indeed made America great, guarantees that you have a right to own and use guns in a responsible manner, whether it is shooting in competition, hunting or self-defense.

This right is very precious. It is delicate almost beyond youthful imagining. So, when you have an opportunity to learn about a gun — this extraordinary tool of many shapes and sizes — remember that it is more than a tradition. The gun is your birthright in America. Seize the day to learn and enjoy.

Rick Sapp

About Rick Sapp

After his stint in the U.S. Army, including time as an infantry platoon leader and working with West German KRIPO during the 1968 Soviet invasion, Rick Sapp returned home to earn a Ph.D. in social anthropology. Following his education from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Catholic University of America and the University of Florida, he moved to France for a year. Rick worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing, authoring more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.