By Scott Carpenter
I wrote this piece back in 2001 for Martin Masse’s Le Quebecois Libre. I have left it unedited – although there are a few things I would change today I don’t think I knew just how relevant it would be to today’s society ‘way back then’.
I was 11 years old when my parents gave me my first real firearm. It was a Lakefield Mark II .22 caliber repeater that I still own. It’s killed a lot of squirrels and grouse in the last seventeen years and in the process I’m convinced that it — with a little help from my father — saved my life.
Of course, it never downed a charging grizzly or wounded a marauding thief. Nope. All it did was keep dad and I busy on the weekends filling the freezer with grouse and slaying errant pop cans. But those activities coupled with the sense of responsibility the ownership of such a tool entailed were enough to keep me out of a lot of trouble that other kids — mostly friends of mine — seemed to have an easy time finding.
Now I’m not saying I was an angel as a young man. I too had something of a taste for adventure and like a lot of other teens in the small community I lived in I suffered all too often from the Saturday morning flue and other similar self-induced ailments. But I never participated in destructive activities and I never hurt anyone. I had — whether I could articulate it or not — a very clear understanding of the concepts of property and justice. I understood from the time I was quite young that a man is responsible for his actions and that I would be held accountable for any damage I perpetrated on another human being.
Deadly Tools and Responsibility…
Canada’s anti-gun lobby is fond of poking fun at gun owners for getting kids involved in firearms oriented activities. They equate the push to involve youth in such activities to putting car keys in the hands of an eight-year-old. But there is a flaw in this line of reasoning that gun owners thus far have failed to address that goes beyond the mere mechanics of an eight-year-old driving a car versus an eight-year-old with a .22 in hand; that being not that children are capable of learning and exercising responsibility (which they are) but rather that it is absolutely integral that they do so if they are to mature into capable and responsible adults.
Competence, confidence, responsibility, and accountability are things that children must learn at a young age in order to become healthy functioning human beings. But these are not values that can be taught in the classroom or learned by watching television. They are values that are attained through performing and doing various activities that represent — for lack of a better term — a right of passage.
And much to the yelling, screaming and general sniveling of Canada’s left-wing establishment the fact of the matter is that learning how to safely own and operate a firearm is one of these passages. How so you may ask?
Primarily, it puts the power of life and death directly into the hands of the youngster thus creating a level playing field — at least physically speaking — between him and his mentor. It gives him a sense that in some way he and his teacher are equal and thus he has entered a new stage in life where he is no longer a mere child suckling at his mother’s tit. Second, it teaches him that with this power or equality eventually comes the duty to act responsibly on a much broader scale. It teaches the child those four valuable lessons: First comes competence. He learns that in order to begin the journey to adulthood he must first learn how to use the tool properly. Through competence, he learns confidence — the idea that he is capable of operating a potentially deadly tool intelligently [that he is capable of thinking] which leads to the concept of responsibility.
With confidence and competence [the realization that he can think and act like an adult] a child is ready to learn that he and he alone is responsible for whatever happens while that tool is in his hands which in turn leads to an understanding of accountability. Accountability is an aspect of justice which has two possible consequences — punishment or reward. The child learns that what he does with his life — i.e. how responsibly he acts — will lead to one of those two outcomes.
These understandings — although a child may not articulate them in quite the same manner — are integral to his moral and ethical development. Besides being the beginning of understanding the concept of ‘rights’ they are also the underpinnings of the one primary virtue that no free society can do without: self-sufficiency.
The Virtue of Self Sufficiency…
When we speak of self-sufficiency as a value we do not necessarily speak of being able to live alone in the woods without any help from others or modern industrial society (although this may be an aspect of the concept). The virtue of self-sufficiency pertains more to the ability to act responsibly, independently and in one’s own self-interest.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if we waited until each human being was the age of majority before we exposed them to any remotely or potentially dangerous activity involving an exercise in personal responsibility? If you believe we live in a world of whiners, wimps and no brain thugs now consider what a world of ‘nineteen-year-old five-year-olds’ would be like. It’s a scary thought.
Thus self-sufficiency is integral to the flourishing of a free society. It is taught by the giving and accepting of responsibility and the subsequent understanding of accountability. A child who has never been given the chance to prove that he is responsible for his actions through participation in activities generally thought of as adult will come to see himself as an adult much later in life than a child who does. His ability to be self-sufficient will thus be hampered. Moreover, the possibility that the child will be morally and ethically deficient is increased. Of course, there may be other ways to learn these lessons but learning how to own, use and maintain a firearm is as clear a first step to adulthood as any.
Indeed, if liberals truly wanted to save the children [and society for that matter] they’d stop championing gun control and start giving their kids shooting lessons. Until then the concept of self-sufficiency will be lost on many of our young people and parents will continue to produce twenty-year-old infants who are unable to think and act responsibly without direction from home or the state.