My husband grew up around guns; they are a part of his family's traditions and history. His mom owns a treasured rifle passed down from her own father. He and his brother grew up watching and then helping their dad clean his own guns, viewing them more as heirlooms than tools. They were not even remotely toys. I have watched the members of his family pass around somebody's new gun to admire it, and as the gun is passed around, I have seen each person carefully open the chamber and check if it's loaded, even when they have seen the three or four others do it before them. Safety is never a question.
My upbringing was different. Although I grew up in the same rural area, only a few miles through the woods from him, I never saw or held a real firearm until I met him. He taught me how to shoot at targets, and I'm pretty good at it. I'm fairly sure that unless I am starving, I will not ever shoot at a live creature, but I am okay with him hunting, since I know he is highly respectful of the life he is taking and values much more about the hunting experience than a lust to kill something.
Until we had kids, that was all we really needed to think about in regard to guns. They were always kept safely, and I never worried about them. But when we decided to have children, the discussions began. How many locks is enough? How early should the kids know about guns? What do we teach them about handling them, and when? Most importantly, should we have them in our home at all, once we have children?
I have read and participated in a number of forum discussions about this--guns in the home. Some parents view that as an absolute red flag for whether or not their child can visit another child's home. Many have written that they do not care how well the guns are stored; there is just no way their children would be allowed at my home. And I can respect that. After all, I can see being extremely uncomfortable with a family who has an unpredictable dog, for instance. And I would always want to know if a family my children were visiting unsupervised had dangerous items in their home, such as guns. Still, it makes me sad to think that for some parents, the simple fact that we own firearms (well, to be precise, David owns them!) would make our home off limits for their kids.
The reason for this post? Our new daycare provider does own firearms, and I asked her how they were stored. I thought about how warm and caring her personality is, how safe and cozy her home feels. The guns, as it turns out, are locked in a safe in the basement, which is closed off to the children. I feel perfectly comfortable with that. Some parents wouldn't, I guess.
I'm not going to lie and say that I like the guns. I'm still far enough removed from that background to have a lot of hesitancy about them, especially the handguns. (David has several of these, as well.) I'm also seriously disgusted by the majority of the information...ahem...propaganda that David receives from gun-promoting organizations, especially that frighteningly powerful NRA. Being a gun-owner and a liberal democrat are at odds in a way, perhaps evidenced by Senator Obama's unfortunate comments that are causing him so much grief with the press. (Personally, by the way, I have no issue with his comment, other than it's a bummer it came out of his mouth the way it did. I know what he's saying. Sure, it's an elitist sentiment, but whatever. I digress into politics, and my brain is not quite prepared to head down that road this evening.)
We go a little overboard with safety in this house in regard to the firearms. They are locked in a full-size safe that is bolted to our closet floor. Inside the safe, the ammunition is removed, and the guns are fitted with a trigger lock or a padlock through the action. The ammo is locked elsewhere.
I do worry about Jabberwock and Monkey finding the keys, finding the combinations, putting together the pieces in a covert operation when left home alone, some afternoon when they are both teenagers. I worry about them having access to a gun during a tough time as emotional adolescents, full of anger and angst. I worry about them showing off to friends, having accidents. But then I think about my husband's family, the reverence with which they handle their heirlooms--the caution, the respect. I know that most likely my children will be safer around guns than a child who has never seen one before. They will have the knowledge and guidance to use them properly.