Taking the first steps in a lifetime of firearms safety
By Ken Perrotte - Special to the Times
Learning to safely and confidently fire a gun was once a rite of passage for most American youngsters. Whether gaining proficiency to help put meat in the cooking pot or defend family and home, the ability to handle a firearm marked a milestone in self-reliance.
Today’s shooting sports — hunting, trap and skeet, precision marksmanship, and more — still offer abundant opportunities for families to learn about firearms safety and enjoy the outdoors or range together.
Figuring out just when it’s appropriate to introduce a child to shooting, however, can be challenging.
Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Myer, 46, began shooting and hunting with his father near their family’s home in upstate New York “as soon as I could walk.” He enlisted in the Marine Corps and now, with 28 years of service, works at Marine Corps Systems Command procuring infantry combat and support equipment.
He and his wife, Shannon, have two boys — Kevin, 8, and Shawn, 6. Myer introduced his sons to firearms slowly, first teaching them with BB guns, then graduating to low-recoil, .22-caliber rifles. The older boy has started shooting his new .410-bore shotgun and will move up to a 20-gauge shotgun this year.
The Myer family shoots at the Izaak Walton League of America range in Stafford, Va., not far from Quantico’s sprawling military range complex. The boys are signed up for formal hunter education courses later this summer — courses that always include a healthy dose of firearms safety.