by Wayne Lutz - January 30th, 2001
I am about to share with you some highly personal information. This must remain strictly between you and me - I wouldn't want it to become generally known, lest I be ostracized, vilified and generally poo-poo'ed by society at large and my fellow journalists in particular.
For his 13th birthday, I bought my son his first BB gun.
I know, I know. He'll shoot his eye out.
I seem to have developed a habit of giving politically incorrect gifts to my son. A few years ago I boarded a plane and flew from Austin to Philadelphia carrying the skull of a steer in my carry-on bag - a dead animal as eagerly anticipated gift for the boy.
I don't know if you've ever tried to stuff a steer's skull into a carry-on bag, but if not, I'm here to tell you that it won't fit. It's the horns, don't you know. And the bleached-bone nose. They...well, they protrude.
The looks I got were basically benign from Austin to, say, Dallas, but grew increasingly hostile as I approached the east coast. By the time I arrived in Philly you'd have thought I'd killed the damned cow myself - and with my bare hands at that.
Hey, it was dead when I found it. Honest.
But even dead cows can't match BB guns as a reason for outrage in our PC-conditioned age. The neighbors all but dive for cover when the boy and I emerge out back for some target shooting. They call their dogs indoors and cast scathing sidelong glances - you can almost hear their thoughts:
"What kind of father is he?. The boy'll shoot his eye out."
But the boy loves his BB gun - more than any other gift he's ever received - even more than dead cows. In fact, we've begun a collection. "Automatic" replica hand guns, revolvers, rifles. And the boy has become quite the marksman, much more accurate than his increasingly shaky father, much to his amusement.
My son's best friend thinks the boy is spoiled. His dad never gave him a dead animal, after all, much less a BB gun. But I didn't capitulate to my son's birthday wish out of parental weakness. In fact, I was secretly delighted when he dropped his subtle hints - the two or three dozen computer printouts of BB weapons pasted up in every obvious spot in the house - in the weeks leading up to his birthday.
You see, my son has learned more than marksmanship from our lessons with his new guns, as I'd hoped he would. Much more.
He has learned the meaning of responsibility. He has learned to respect his weapons for the potential danger that they represent as well as for the pleasure in accomplishment that they afford, and this is a lesson in respect that he will apply should he ever encounter a real gun in some unsupervised setting.
His BB weapons have also served me well as a method of instilling in him an appreciation for American history and for his heritage. The story of Liberty and the role that an armed citizenry played in the attainment of and continues to play in the preservation of that liberty is made real to him as he listens with his beloved BB rifle cradled in his arms.
One day, when my boy becomes a man, he will own a real gun. When that day comes he will respect his gun and appreciate what the ownership of that gun means in a free society.
In the meantime, as a result of his experiences, another lesson is forming itself in his mind without my help - and this is perhaps the most important lesson of all.
He is learning that freedom is a fragile thing that must be cared for, respected, and guarded, just like a fine gun.
And if the day ever comes when they try to take his gun away from him, he will learn outrage.