So as I mentioned the other day, Brendan and I took a gun safety class with Ryan at a local shooting range. I've never ever done anything like that before and I've been thinking about the experience ever since.
Here are some relevant facts: I didn't grow up in a home with guns, and had never ever even touched one until last Sunday. I know my grandfathers kept firearms in their homes, but only ever saw one of the weapons one time. I've always been a little nervous about the idea of ever shooting one myself, and yet, also interested. Brendan's family had firearms around I think, and might have even let him shoot a hunting rifle or something. He certainly had a BB gun as a kid.
Probably if I'd never met Ryan, I would never have had a desire or need to go to a gun range and shoot a pistol.
This kid is obsessed, as those of you who have met him in real life already know. He isn't just obsessed with video games with shooting and explosions--he likes to know all about real firearms. He knows the names of the parts (I know where the trigger is) and what kind of ammunition different guns use and pros/cons of laser sights (he's pro, mostly because I think he thinks laser sights look pretty rocking awesome).
He's also interested in the military in general, and wars and battles and battlefields and strategies and tactics and Sun Tzu and Bad Guys and Good Guys and personal defense and home defense and national defense and snipers and assassins and bombs and missiles and rocket launchers. He's beginning to get interested in the Zombie Apocalypse. You know, pretty standard 9 year old boy stuff from what I understand.
We got him a BB gun last year and he and Brendan do target practice in the backyard, which he loves to do. He is super safety conscious and always wears eye protection, which, as a mother, and as a person who watches A Christmas Story about 20 times a year, I do appreciate.
But he's been hankering after the real stuff. Of course.
We decided it was time to fulfill some of Ryan's curiosity by giving him some real experience. While I'm sure many (if not most) mommies can relate to my apprehension about letting a kid handle a real-live gun, I'd rather he have some knowledge and experience to round out whatever dreams and fantasies he already has. We thought training all around in the basics would be beneficial to us all.
A friend of ours found a basic handgun training class at a shooting range he likes, and kids as young as 8 can take the class. Our friend, who is former military, liked the way the class was set up (it's affiliated somehow with the NRA I think), specifically that it trains beginners in a way that is similar to how he learned in the military. The approach is to help you create a safety routine for handling the weapon, to do the same actions and motions each time so that safety becomes a habit.
I like this--it's the same as our "always bring an Epi-pen when you leave the house" routine. We want this habit to be so ingrained in him that something feels off or wrong when he is missing his Epis. And over time, that is how things will feel if he learns and automatizes this firearm safety routine. And I want to do the same thing for myself.
We signed up for a private class with our two friends who are experienced shooters, Brendan, Ryan, and me. Ryan was so excited, and remarked to me as we were preparing to leave that morning that he felt like a grownup. :D
The guy who taught the class (also the owner of the shooting range) was really awesome with Ryan (and the rest of us). Apparently, he was a firearm-obsessed 9 year old boy once himself, because every so often he'd say something to Ryan about how he understood that Ryan was really eager to get shooting. The trainer peopleguy explained things pretty well, and gave us lots of time to practice and get comfortable handling empty guns before we went on the range.
When we got to the range, I was so focused on practicing myself that it was hard to keep an eye on what was going on with Ryan. My friend was there to help me out when I needed something (hooray for friends!). The trainer looked in on all of us once in a while and gave us advice. But his primary focus was Ryan, which I was glad about. Because once we'd all shot a few rounds on the shooting range and I'd got over the shock of having actually fired a gun myself, it began to dawn on me that my 9 year old was armed with a .22 and shooting at stuff.
I had a few moments of OMG my kid is shooting a gun, interspersed with several moments of OMG I'm shooting a gun. Mostly in the good, awe-filled sense. :D
Ryan did great--he was very focused on following all of the rules we'd learned in class, and he listened to the trainer's advice. The trainer listened to Ryan's questions and random bursts of firearm-related trivia in a kind and patient way. He was helpful and encouraging on the shooting range. Because of his kind attention to Ryan, I was able to focus on doing my best, too.
We all got official patches and certifications and stuff, of which Ryan is enormously proud. The trainer gave Ryan a zombie target as a souvenir (or maybe Ryan will use it the next time he goes shooting).
I was super proud of how Ryan did, and how I did, too (you can see pictures of our targets in this post). As it turns out, I'm married to a guy who is also a pretty good shot. :D We're a family of prodigies, what can I say?
It was a fun experience, and I'm so glad we included Ryan. He's still reading about guns and playing shoot-em-up video games, but now he has some firsthand experience with a gun, too. We'll definitely be taking him for target practice on a semi-regular basis, because we all want to get those good safety and shooting habits into our brains, too.