The NRA teaches people about gun safety using three simple rules:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off of the trigger until ready to shoot.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Growing up in rural northern California with a father who hunted, we had guns in the house from a very young age. But my dad didn’t teach us any rules about how to handle them. Instead, when we were old enough to be nosy about guns, he bought us BB guns. He took us outside, and with my disapproving mother looking on and saying “Don’t, Dad. Don’t,” my dad told my brother to run. When my brother was about halfway down our gravel driveway, my father pumped up the BB gun and shot my brother square in the butt. My brother never had a chance to escape to the newly-chip-and-sealed road on which we lived. My brother shrieked, grabbed his buns with both hands and dropped to his knees there on the gravel.
Neither he or I did anything stupid with our BB guns. We remembered clearly what happened that day. He remembered the pain and I remembered the sound he made when he was shot.
When we were getting old enough to handle something with a little more kick, dad took us out to the “diggin’s,” as were called the woods and hills where I grew up. Again, he didn’t discuss any rules beforehand. He and my uncle had .22 caliber rifles and were shooting things together, challenging each other in their marksmanship. Finally, they set their aim on a bird in the tree in the distance instead of the pinecones hanging from the tree. Dad hit the bird. We verified the kill and win of the marksmanship competition. I, through my tears. I bawled and bawled that dad had killed that poor little bird. I cried more when my dad told me not to worry, that a coyote would eat it.
But I never pointed my firearm at anything I didn’t want to destroy. I remember that guns can take life.
I’m kinda sad when I wonder what other Redneck Gun Safety lessons I might have learned, without words, numbered lists or diagrams, if we hadn’t moved away from the country and into the city, leaving all of our guns behind us. Somehow things worked out how they were meant to and I’ve taken up firearms and learning about marksmanship and safety again, even with a gap of 20 years in between my brother’s driveway cries and my husband’s excited yelp when I agreed to go to a shooting range for the first time with him.