You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid

Prairie Gleanings

Did anyone buy a BB gun for their child this Christmas? I agree with Ralphie. They are a terrific gift.

Published on: January 3, 2012

One of my favorite Christmas movies is “A Christmas Story.” Most are familiar with little Ralphie’s quest to own a Red Ryder BB gun.

Watching that movie this year, I had to wonder, “Do parents still buy BB guns for their kids? Do kids still want BB guns?” It seems like technology rules the wish lists these days. BB guns are delightfully low tech.

Many, my wife included, think BB guns are a terrible gift idea for a young boy. I happen to side with Ralphie’s dad. I think it’s a great present; and I plan to buy Linus one when he’s old enough. Here’s five reasons why a BB gun is a good gift. (yes, I’m writing my own theme)

  1. To use a BB gun, you need to be outside. So many forms of entertainment are indoor activities these days. Video games encourage children to hole up in their rooms and play for hours on end without seeing the sun. Childhood obesity is a real problem. Get these kids outside!
  2. A BB gun teaches children to wield a small amount of power responsibly. My first BB gun was a Daisy air rifle, much like Ralphie’s in terms of power. I once watched as a neighbor kid shot another neighbor kid. I was horrified. I’d been taught to never point a BB gun at another person. It left a red welt about the size of a bee sting. The incident reinforced the concept of power. While the shooter acted very flippant about the wound, I could only think “What if it had hit him in the eye.”
  3. Power saws, speed boats, motorcycles and hunting rifles … all are adult “toys” with the potential to seriously maim or kill their user if used improperly. With BB guns, boys learn at an early age to respect this power. Ralphie learned to respect the Red Ryder’s destructive power with its first shot.
  4. BB guns teach a certain amount of hand-eye coordination. You also learn a thing or two about gravity. You can see the BB fall over long distances. Steadying and aiming an air rifle so you can hit a can 10 yards away is a lot easier than hitting the same can at 30 yards.
  5. With a BB gun, children gain a connection with animals that is completely different from owning a pet. Some of my best childhood memories are exploring creek beds and the Ozark hills with a BB gun in hand. I shot many snakes along the way. One day, I shot a bird. I still feel bad about that. However, on that day, I learned the difference between taking an animal’s life for necessity versus sport. Our society is so far removed from our hunter/gatherer beginnings; many of us no longer understand the concept of livestock.

“That’s a nice set of reasons, but they’re still dangerous,” you argue. What’s more dangerous, introducing your children to the concept of firearms at a young age, while you can instill a sense of responsibility? Or, letting them discover lethal weapons on their own, against the backdrop of thousands of hours of violent video games?