First published in the 1962 issue of American Rifleman.
The Christmas season is a time for friendly good will and pleasant fellowship. Part of the observance is the exchange of greetings and gifts. It is an opportunity to express warm affection for members of our families and esteemed friends. For many youngsters, it is an opportunity to get the things they want. Christmas coms but once a year, and children have persuasive methods of suggesting the gifts which they most desire. Some will want a bicycle. Some will want their own automobile. Others will have their hearts set on a real gun for Christmas.
Many parents will do a great deal of soul-searching on the matter of giving a real gun, as well they should. Not every youngster who wants a gun for Christmas should get one. There are some children, and adults as well, who are emotionally unfit to handle firearms. For those who have a proper sense of responsibility and a knowledge of safe gun handling, however, a real gun will be a cherished possession.
There is something fascinating about the way a gun gives new meaning to a youngster's outlook on life. There is a magic transformation on a boy's face as he handles someone's fine gun. But even that look takes on added delight when he receives his own gun from his parents at Christmas. His first moments of gun ownership are treasured ones. Eagerly, his young hands test the strong blue barrel. His happy eyes mirror future pleasures as he drives home the slick bolt mechanism. The heft of the gun feels good, the solid weight and balance of a treasure he has dreamed of are his.
Wrapped up in this gift of wood and steel is something more than a piece of hardware. He feels nine stories tall. This gift, unlike the electric train of football that he received in other years, is the major instrument that opens a whole new world to him. It is the down payment on a heritage and a right to keep and bear arms. He knows, and his parents know, that the gun is a symbol of responsibility and trust that are the making of a man.
A gun isn't given through trust alone. Responsibility is a two-way street and is fulfilled only when the young man is shown how to handle the gun safely. Anything less than this is half a gift, one that could ultimately deny him all of the enjoyment of the shooting sports. Safe gun habits and an appreciation of a gun's potential, when developed in youth, last a lifetime. And the time to train a youngster is when he receives the gun. Give him an intensive course in proper gun handing. Once he becomes skilled in the basics, prepare him for participation in shooting sports. Give him a membership in the National Rifle Association of America, and enroll him in a local shooting club. Make certain that he has the understanding and attitude to become a true sportsman.
The gift of a gun to a boy carries with it a great wealth of American tradition, all wrapped up in the process of a youngster becoming a man. It is a mark of responsibility and trust, both for the youngster and the parents. When you give a boy a gun, also give him the knowledge, the skill, and the sense of responsibility which is part of being a shooter, so that he may fully appreciate the his gun and use it safely and in complete enjoyment for the rest of his natural life.
Then, and only then, you will give him the total Christmas gift.