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Safety first with BB guns

January 8, 2013 - Betsy Bethel
Everyone knows the cautionary line from "A Christmas Story," spoken by the mother of BB-gun-coveting Ralphie: "You'll shoot your eye out!"

We laugh and groan and commiserate with poor young Ralphie, whose quest for a Daisy Red Ryder carbine action air rifle with a compass in the stock "and this thing which tells time" has become legendary, thanks in part to TNT airing marathons of the film every Christmas. I know it's a tradition at our house.

And just like Ralphie's dad, many parents in middle America acquiesce to their kids' requests and put BB guns under the tree each year. I personally know four youngsters (ages 9-11) who received BB or pellet guns this year. Even in the wake of the shooting tragedy at Newtown, Conn., getting a BB gun is a rite of passage in many families right here in the Ohio Valley and all across America. And you can still get a Daisy Red Ryder: They are $34.99 at Cabela's, and they come in pink, too! I am, I admit, not one of those parents. In fact, I'm one of the ones who tried to keep my daughter from playing with anything resembling a gun, even a water gun, as long as possible, and never let her play any shooting games. Of course, against the odds, what is Emma's favorite thing to do at Cabela's? She makes a bee-line for the shooting gallery every time.

I don't think Ralphie's mom and I are alone — many moms worry about the safety of their children, other children and not to mention domestic animals around their gun-wielding kids. So below are some words of wisdom and caution I'd like to share, supplied by Guardians of Animals, an animal rescue program, for parents of children who own BB guns or whose children are asking for one:

— Ask why. If your child wants a BB or pellet gun, find out why and ask what it is that they want to shoot at. If they don't have a good answer, or it is one that involves harming people and animals, then hold off on making the purchase.

— Wait until they are older. Young children may not be mature enough or have the impulse control to follow the rules that come with a BB gun. Wait until they are old enough to follow the rules and will take them seriously. Typically, this would be when they are a teenager.

— Find a safety course. Check around in your county to see if you can find a safety course for your child to take. You may find one by checking with the NRA, the Boy Scouts or local camp sites.

— Hold them accountable. If your child has one of these guns and you have set rules and guidelines, be sure to follow through if they don't hold up their end of the bargain. Better to take the gun away now than have to face up to someone whose child or pet has been injured by the gun.

— Discuss the ethics. Talk to your child about not shooting animals for target practice. This causes a lot of injuries and leaves injured animals out on the streets, helpless. Help your child learn to have compassion for animals, rather than seeing them as merely something to shoot at.

One more thing I'd like to add: Don't let your child take his or her gun out in public. It could cause, at best, a mass panic, and at worst, your child's death at the hands of law enforcement or citizen who honestly believe they are protecting themselves or the public.

 
 

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Ralphie from "A Christmas Story," full of hope after blurting out to Santa that he wants a Red Ryder BB gun, and just before his hopes are dashed when Santa says: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"

 
 
 
 

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