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News & Editorials

We Need More Kids With Guns

by Larry Pratt
Executive Director,
Gun Owners of America


Typical of the anti-Second Amendment, anti-self defense Gun-Grabbers is Brian Morton, Associate Director Of Communications for Handgun Control, Inc. who believes, and has said, that "guns and kids" are a "bad combination." But, he is dangerously mistaken on this subject. His wrong-headed view can be deadly.

In fact, just the opposite of what Morton says is true. More young people need to be knowledgeable about guns: how to use them safely and -- most importantly -- where they are in the house if needed. Because to not know where a gun is located when it is needed can be deadly.

A tragic case in point where "a kid" and a gun needed to be "combined" -- and where such a combination would have saved lives -- occurred in August of this year in rural Merced County, California. What happened was that a murderous, pitchfork-wielding maniac entered the home of John Carpenter where he stabbed to death 7-year-old John William Carpenter and 9-year-old Ashley Danielle Carpenter.

The Fresno Bee (8/26/2000) quotes the children's great-uncle, the Rev. John Hilton, as saying of 14-year-old Ashley Carpenter, who survived this brutal attack: "If only [she] had a gun available to her, she could have stopped the whole thing. If she had been properly armed, she could have stopped him in his tracks."

The Bee reports that the father, John Carpenter, "kept a gun in his home. His children learned how to fire it. But he kept it locked away and hidden from his children." (emphasis mine).

The Rev. Hilton says of Mr. Carpenter: "He's more afraid of the law than of somebody coming in for his family. He's scared to death of leaving the gun where the kids could get it because he's afraid of the law. He's scared to teach his children to defend themselves." Hilton adds that the father feared over-regulation as well as laws that make gun owners criminally and civilly liable if their children or others are injured.

Dan Helman, who works at Gilman-Mayfield Firearms in Fresno, is quoted as saying that more and more people are changing their behavior because of gun laws: "The government has got people so scared. I agree wholeheartedly [with the Rev. Hilton]. If there had been a gun available, maybe nobody would have died."

The California legislature has to accept the blame for this tragedy. It was their bill requiring Carpenter to lock up his safety (so-called safe storage) that insured that the guns would be unavailable in a crisis. One more piece of criminal protection legislation that needs to be repealed so that more lives will not be lost.

In a letter-to-the-editor of the Bee (9/1/2000), Jason Hendrix of Clovis says he could not agree more with the Rev. Hilton that her siblings might have lived had Jessica Carpenter been armed. He adds: "As fast as Merced deputies showed up, it wasn't fast enough to stop the crime in progress. Regardless of what critics will say, Rev. Hilton was 100 percent correct. In fact, a firearm is the only thing that would have saved the day."

In another letter-to-the-editor of the Bee (9/3/2000), Ron Shipman of Fresno writes: "The words spoken by Rev. John Hilton, 'If only,' cadence through my mind constantly. We let Ashley and John William Carpenter down, and it matters not if you are anti-gun or pro-gun. What matters is we are allowing our legislators and the courts run roughshod over our Constitution and Bill Of Rights. Ashley's and John's deaths need not be in vain -- the death of these two children should be the biggest wake-up call this Valley has ever seen. No one in this Republic, of a responsible age, should have their right to self-protection challenged."

Sad to say, in many ways, it seems that fewer young people are being taught how to shoot. For example, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper (12/4/99) reports that "school rifle teams are on the brink of extinction." Chicago schools have discontinued rifle teams in their schools with junior ROTC programs. But, supporters of marksmanship programs in St. Louis "stress that none of the recent shootings in schools have been spawned by an in-school marksmanship team."

An example of the type of irrational, anti-gun hysteria which has led to a reduction in the ability of individuals, including young people, to defend themselves or others, are the remarks of Ellen Dennehy, a child psychologist and part-time faculty member at Southern Methodist University. In Texas, youngsters 12 and older can be certified for hunting licenses after completing a mandatory 10-hour course, according to a story in the Dallas Morning News (4/9/98). There is also "no law that prevents a parent from teaching a child how to shoot or handle a gun at any age."

Kid-shrink Dennehy, however, is scandalized by all this. She says, incoherently: "We have a major problem in our country where we are pushing our children younger and younger and we are robbing them of their childhood." But, of course, in Merced County, California -- because 14-year-old Ashley Carpenter could not get her father's gun -- her younger brother and sister were "robbed of their childhood" because they are dead!

In the book Guns: Who Should Have Them? (Prometheus Books, 1995), edited by David B. Kopel, in a chapter titled "Children And Guns," Kopel notes, correctly: "The most important factor affecting how children deal with guns is how they are taught about them.... To fail to teach America's young people responsible gun use, under the supervision of responsible adults, is to sow the seeds of a public health disaster, the murder epidemic that too many American cities have created for themselves."

Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having advised his nephew: "Games played with a bat and ball are too violent, and stamp no character on the mind.... [A]s to the species of exercise, I advise the gun."

Kopel adds: "Other than hatred of guns, there is no strong argument against schools being allowed to offer target shooting as a sport, nor is there an argument against teenagers being encouraged to learn responsible attitudes toward firearms through participation in shooting sports."

Well, amen! This kind of thing and a lot more things must be done. As I say, we need more young people to be knowledgeable about guns: how to use them safely and --- most importantly --- where they are in the house if needed. To paraphrase the title of John Lott's excellent book: "More Well-Trained Young People With Guns, Safer Families."

Larry Pratt is Executive Director of Gun Owners of America. GOA can be contacted at or at 703-321-8585.


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