Have a Safe-Shooting Christmas

Please don't allow your Christmas and holiday celebrations to turn tragic.

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As I sit here writing this post, I am watching one of my all-time favorite holiday movies. "A Christmas Story", which is a classic with many people for many reasons.

I like the father-son relationship part of the story, as well as the mother-son relationship part of the story. And, of course Ralphie's defeat of schoolyard bully Scut Farkus is moment to remember, and a great lesson lost on modern times about how to effectively deal with bullies. Talking and pleading just doesn't work as advertised.

But, of course "A Christmas Story" centers around Ralphie Parker's pursuit of a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and all the various efforts he makes to have one end up under the tree. It's a story line that all shooting enthusiasts can relate to. And all through process-from telling his mother, his father, his teacher, and eventually even Santa that he wants a Red Ryder BB gun, he is met with the classic response line "you'll shoot your eye out".

When all seems lost to Ralphie, his dad comes through for him. His last present, which was hidden behind a desk, is his long desired Red Ryder BB gun.

The point of this dissertation is that Ralphie did in fact almost shoot his eye out on the very first BB fired in the backyard. The only thing that saved him was the fact that he was wearing eyeglasses. That stopped the impact of the BB and potentially saved his eyesight. And yes, I know this is a story, albeit a semi-fictional one, which means there may be a kernel of truth in there somewhere.

So why did that BB shot nearly turn into a tragedy? When it comes to it, Ralphie's well-meaning father, so aptly played by the late Darren McGavin, stopped his instruction about handling the BB gun with insuring that Ralphie knew how to load it. Then without further instruction (other than to shoot the Bumpuses dogs), Mr. and Mrs. Parker allow Ralphie to go out alone in their backyard to fire away. Things were a lot different in the early 1940's which is when the story was roughly set.

As you know, the first shot fired was at a metal sign in the backyard, which held an official Daisy paper target. Everyone who ever owned a BB gun knew that the round BB would surely bounce back off the metal. Had Mr. Parker given some proper safety instruction about what constitutes a safe target backstop, the incident would not have happened-and of course we wouldn't have the movie. In the end though, I am happy that Ralphie still managed to keep his BB gun. If A Christmas Story was made today instead of in 1983, Ralphie would have never fired the BB gun again, and thrown it in the trash in despair instead of keeping it to shoot another day.

So what is the point of discussing a 35 year old movie that is still popular enough to warrant its own 24-hour marathon showing at Christmas? It's this. BB guns and airsoft guns should be used-at least initially-with adult supervision and training and in adherence to the law. This includes fully understanding that in an incorporated jurisdiction, it is illegal to fire any type of projectile launching arm outdoors, even in one's own yard.

Safety training and supervision has to be a part of proper shooting training, to the point that it is made clear that shooting is only fun when it is done safely. This goes for any projectile launcher-bow and arrow, BB gun, pellet gun, airsoft gun, paintball gun, or especially a firearm.

Some lucky folks will be getting their first firearm or BB gun for Christmas this year. It is imperative that instruction is given before the first shot is fired, and that everyone involved is familiar with the operation of the particular gun and its capabilities. Some people still think that a .22 is relatively harmless because of its small size. A lot of people have made that mistake with the .22 across many years with tragic results.

If an arm is to be used for self-defense then expert training should be sought-and Vance Outdoor's runs some great classes that should cover every defensive need. Coupled with safe use should be understanding of safe storage of guns. Note that in A Christmas Story Ralphie ended up sleeping with his BB gun across his chest, with the muzzle pointed in the direction of his little brother's bed. Cute ending but not even remotely what is meant by safe storage.

If you need safety information, every direction manual packaged with every firearm contains tons of safety information. In fact, it takes awhile to get through the safety material if you are seeking other info on the arm in question. The NRA is well-known for its promotion of safe (and accurate) shooting for the past 147 years. But in case you don't know the basic rules of firearms safety, I will list some of them here.

The Ten Commandments of Gun Safety

Always follow these important safety rule-there are several variants of this list available:

  1. Treat every gun with the respect due a loaded gun.
  2. Fully understand the operating system of the arm you are handling before firing.
  3. Always be sure that the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
  4. Always carry your gun so that you can control the direction of the muzzle.
  5. Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.
  6. Never point a gun at anything you do not want to shoot.
  7. Never leave your gun unattended unless you unload it first.
  8. Never climb a tree or a fence with a loaded gun.
  9. Never shoot at a flat, hard surface or the surface of water.
  10. Do not mix gunpowder and alcohol.

In closing, remember that while reading safety rules is of no value if those rules are also not followed. Please don't allow your Christmas and holiday celebrations to turn tragic, and thus ruin the celebration for you forever after that. For more information on safety go to www.nra.org.