From the Braver Institute
My eldest daughter (she was seven at the time) seemed to always enjoy the prospect of hunting and had several hunting video games that use a plastic gun as a game controller. I think she picked up this interest from one of her uncles who is an avid hunter. She sure didn’t get it from me. While I own several guns and I enjoy hunting to an extent, I certainly don’t live and breathe it.
I like shooting, but it doesn’t come up in conversation often. The fact that I don’t talk much about my love of shooting is probably the reason for my daughter’s reaction when I asked her if she wanted to go shooting with us.
“Deer?” she asked excitedly. “No,” I replied. “Bear?” she shot back even more excited. “NO! Just shooting.” She replied with a simple “oh” and looked a bit puzzled. “At targets,” I elaborated. “Okay,” she said in a voice no less confused. She apparently equated all shooting with hunting. Understandably so, given my lack of talking about it.
Off to the pit we went.
We set up numerous targets forty or fifty feet away and after a thorough reminder about the safe use of firearms we were ready to shoot. (With my kids I had always insisted that all guns—toy or otherwise—be treated like real guns, so the ideas in the safety talk were far from foreign to my daughter.)
My daughter has cerebral palsy and this has a slight effect on her ability to control the movement of her arms and to a greater extent, her legs and her fingers. I took a lawn chair along for her to sit on and we fashioned a crude shooting bench for her to rest the rifle on since she was too small to hold it on her own. She already knew how the sights worked from playing her video games and after a few shots she was hitting the targets like she had been shooting for years.
The level of her enjoyment became apparent after the gun misfired once. While many misfires are caused by dud ammo, this was not the case. My .22 rifle is a single-shot, bolt-action rifle. The hammer on this rifle is more of a cylinder type device that is pulled back manually to cock the gun as opposed to what you might think a traditional hammer on a gun to look like. When the trigger is pulled, this cylinder slides forward striking the cartridge and thus firing the gun. Normally when there is a misfire the gun simply makes a click sound. With this particular misfire the sound was muted. It certainly wasn’t a click. A second later there was the sound of my daughter crying. It seemed that she had gotten her cheek too close to the hammer and when she pulled the trigger her cheek was pinched.
She had a dime-sized, crescent shaped welt on her right cheek that had to hurt tremendously. I asked her if she wanted to go back to grandma’s house now. Her reply was a quick no. She clearly wanted to shoot more in spite of being literally bitten by my rifle.
The following Spring I bought her a youth-sized .22 rifle for her birthday. It was a single-shot, bolt-action just like mine only smaller and lighter. We never had opportunity to go shooting as much as I wanted to but in the time that we did go out, my daughter became a bit of a crack shot with that little gun.
This past winter we went shooting at my good friend Don’s camp with his two boys and his brother. It quickly became apparent that my daughter had outgrown her rifle. I had bought it for her when she turned eight. She was now thirteen.
One of Don’s boys let her shoot his rifle. It was a semi-automatic which made it much easier for my daughter to shoot since she didn’t have to load the tiny ammo into the gun or cock it after every shot. The traditional stock had also been replaced with a more ergonomic one featuring a pistol grip that afforded a greater level of control. With my daughter’s cerebral palsy this was a big help.
She took to this gun naturally and in short order she was hitting the targets down-range like she owned the gun. It became clear to me that she would be needing a new rifle. I determined then and there that I would get her one for her fourteenth birthday.
Little did I know the challenges that would await me in doing so.
To be continued.
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