• Steven Heller

What to Tell the Kids About Guns

When I was about eight or nine, I found Clyde M. Narramore’s book How to Tell Your Children About Sex hidden in my dad’s closet. Presumably he had been preparing himself to “have the talk,” but I got to his crib sheet first. I poured over the chapters on “Family Dressing and Undressing,” “Learning from Nature,” and “Experimentation.” All presumably juicy, but Clyde’s style was dry as burnt toast. I found the necessary information other ways. On the same shelf as Clyde’s answer to nature’s call, however, was What Every Parent Should Know . . . When a Boy or Girl Wants a Gun. Presumably, my dad wanted to cover all eventualities: Sex and Guns.

Curiously, in light of all the gun control protest today (and I’m a firm supporter) this booklet from 1957 was more egalitarian than most — “when a boy or GIRL wants a gun.” It took a hundred years for women to get the vote in the U.S., but guns. . . “anything you want, little lady.” And the reasons are simple . . .

“Come the day when the settlers on your block have routed the last redskin,” reads the first sentence of the booklet, “when your Backyard Cowboy and his trusty cap pistol have freed the neighborhood of the last rustler [or intruder], your boy — or girl — will want a gun, a real gun, one that shoots. Cropping up usually before or in the early teens, that craving is as normal, as healthy, as a yen for ice cream.” Tell that to the victims and survivors of Colorado’s movie theater massacre and melee.

Guns are part of American life and narrative. So imbuing the young with dreams of becoming Davy Crockett or Baby Face Nelson, is just part of growing up. “Chronological age is no yardstick,” says the booklet’s sponsor, Remington Arms Co. and Peters Cartridge Division. “Some youngsters start at eight, some at fourteen. The real measure is that of responsibility. Will you leave your youngster in the house alone for two or three hours? .  .  . If the answer is “Yes,” he is ready for a gun, under proper supervision.”

There are many choice tidbits of wisdom and lore (click on image to make larger).

Since my dad kept the booklet for a reason, I figured he was willing to buy me a gun when I was ready. So he shocked me when I asked to exercise my right of passage and Constitutional right to bear arms: “Are you out of your mind! Not in this lifetime, mine or yours.” I never got that gun, ever.

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