Dandelion for Christmas

My daughter has a Florida State University friend with this Facebook description: “Editing, Writing, & Media, and Russian Minor…. I like different, and adventures are my favorite.” (Adventures, I suppose, like petting unicorns, training a dragon or visiting Hogwarts School of Witchcraft.)

Unaccountably, her post appeared on my Facebook page: “I’m rewarding myself with an hour of coloring for every 1000 words I write.” It’s astonishing, disheartening … and makes me mad. There’s no thought about reimbursing Mom and Dad for the hours this snowflake spends coloring while living at an expensive university on their dime; much less volunteering in some generous social capacity; or [God forbid!] getting a job. Which brings me to the subject of Christmas presents.

Do not buy your kids or your wife a gun for Christmas. Do not — unless they already have experience with firearms.

Okay. Possibly a .22 (or an air gun). Lots of small-caliber pistols and rifles are available — or shotguns in sub-gauges (.410 or .28). In fact, a .22 is a darn good learning tool and an inexpensive practice gun for experienced shooters. (As a primary carry pistol, a .22 fires — IMO — too light a bullet; as a backup, maybe. After all, you can shove 10 rounds in the magazine of an 18-ounce Ruger SR22. The action is robust enough to feed quality or crappy ammo and the SR22 sells for about $400.)

You have a newbie in the family, someone you want to introduce to shooting. In my opinion, you should not purchase a firearm for him or her for Christmas, not even in your spouse’s favorite color, unless he or she is already experienced with firearms. Think instead of a gift certificate for range lessons or a membership that might interest him or her. After all, shooting is a lifetime skill that is — I think I’m right here – more life-enhancing than coloring or chasing rainbows or grooming unicorns…

The .22 is excellent for beginners, because the recoil — the blast, the blow-back, whatever you want to call it — is relatively easy to handle. The ear-shattering Bang! from your .44 will scare many young people (even if they wear hearing protection). The .22 shouldn’t be a problem — even though, technically, it still measures above a jet engine’s 140 dB.

When it’s time to buy your newbie a gun, you’ll know. Don’t be constricted to a “must-buy” holiday like Christmas or a birthday. If there’s any doubt, take your spouse or child to a shooting range; let them shop around; hang with someone close to their age. Watch what happens. Maybe get them involved in taking your pistol apart and helping you clean it. Acclimate your newbie slowly and set them up with the best quality hearing and eye protection. [Trust me on this because I did it wrong with two kids. One grew into larger firearms on his own; the other, the shotgun frightened, I’m afraid, rather permanently.]

If the newbie in your life isn’t ready for his or her own gun, here are a few ideas (not in any order) that may get him or her off the cell phone and into the shooting sports — and please feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section.

  1. NRA Junior Membership: It’s only $15 a year and can link your youth to a variety of shooting options, such as local 4H clubs and the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program.
  2. Becoming an Outdoor Woman: BOW is a non-profit educational program that offers hands-on workshops to adult women. In BOW’s 20 or so classes, the women in your life can experience everything from archery to fly fishing, kayaking to rifle and shotgun basics.
  3. National Archery in the Schools: NASP is a high-quality, non-profit program that teaches both conservation and archery as a lifetime skill. The equipment is designed to allow young people to learn and grow at their own pace.
  4. The Well Armed Woman: This organization developed in response to the “dominance of men” (says founder Carrie Lightfoot) and men’s “condescending and sometimes downright insulting” attitude toward women in the shooting sports.
  5. A Girl and a Gun: Julianna Crowder has organized her women’s shooting leagues around local chapters that offer training, education … and fun in a non-competitive atmosphere.
  6. Scouting: Encouraging your youngster in Scouting (or 4H) gives access to supervised shooting education. It isn’t the scouting we grew up with in the ‘50s or ‘60s, but these venerable organizations work hard to stay abreast of the times while maintaining core values.

The USCCA itself will increase commentary specifically for women in 2017. This expands the insightful observations of regular columnists Beth Alcazar and Tamara Keel, so a membership in this organization also makes a meaningful Christmas or birthday gift.

Get your newbie hooked gently, at their own pace, and you’ll develop a trusted shooting and self-defense partner. Now, for the hardware … which one day may be available in “different and adventurous” Crayola crayon colors like Mango Tango, Dandelion, Canary or Fern for the snowflake in the family.