Originally published in December 1959, American Rifleman.
As December 25 approaches and our thoughts turn to the age-old custom of giving presents, we can expect again the oft-repeated admonition "Don't give a boy a gun for Christmas." Once more the anti-gun forces will preach that firearms are evil things from which our youth must be sheltered and protected.
The ownership and use of firearms represents a freedom won by our forefathers and kept alive by freedom-loving people. It lives in our history books and literature. We find it in the stories presented on television, on radio, and in the movies. The great saga of winning the West- of the pioneers and trail blazers, of the fight against savages and wild animals-is a part of the romance that is the heritage of our children. In many homes there is at least one old gun closely associated with family history. It may be a flintlock from the Revolution, a cap-and-ball from the Civil War, or a modern military rifle. It may be merely an old rifle or shotgun which was someone's cherished possession. The desire of a boy to have a gun of his own is deeply rooted in American tradition.
Guns continue to be constructive tools which may be used to build healthy minds and bodies; to cement father and son relationships; to develop self-discipline, initiative, and team spirit; and to mold the youth of America into better sportsmen and better citizens. Hunting and shooting are wholesome forms of recreation which may, in safety, be enjoyed for a lifetime. Physical fitness, mental development, and a knowledge of proper gun handling are common sense forms of individual preparedness. It is only natural that boys are interested in firearms and want to include them among their personal possessions.
In the early days, it was necessary and accepted that every youngster be intimately acquainted with firearms. They learned to use and appreciate a gun as a tool of everyday life. The ability to handle it safely and to hit the mark was a part of their upbringing. Today, too many adults treat a gun as a forbidden implement which a child must investigate in secret. Too many parents make the mistake of giving a boy a gun without the essential ingredients of knowledge and skill to use it safely and well. A knowledge of firearms should be a part of every boy's education until he becomes so familiar with them that he will do no harm to himself or others.
The National Rifle Association of America, with more than 300,000 individual members and over 8,000 affiliated local groups, has proved that shooting can be the safest of sports. Under adult supervision, millions of boys and girls all over America have learned to shoot and have earned recognition awards in the NRA Junior Qualification Courses since 1925. Through the efforts of 34,000 volunteer instructors in the NRA Hunter Safety Course, more than 700,000 youngsters have been taught proper gun handling since 1949. There is no need for any child to be deprived of an opportunity to learn safety and skill with firearms. There are many qualified adult leaders who are able and willing to do the job with help and support.
A gun can be for a boy a most longed-for Christmas gift which carries with it a great wealth of American tradition, all wrapped up in the process of a youngster becoming a man. When you give a boy a gun, give him also the knowledge, the skill, and the sense of responsibility which is a part of being a shooter, so that he may appreciate his gun and use it safely and in complete enjoyment all his life.
Louis F. Lucas, Executive Director
National Rifle Association of America