In the wake of a couple of truly tragic stories involving accidental shootings involving children, the media response was sadly predictable. The usual list of suspects lined up quickly to point out how utterly evil and insane people must be to allow children to have access to firearms. In response to this, Matt Lewis has done all of us a favor and penned a very personal editorial about his own family and his first rifle. It’s something which I find very inspirational, and I wish everyone would join in and publish their own stories along these lines. I plan to do the same thing here, but first a quick look at how Matt introduces his tale.

The other week, I wrote about how newsrooms could benefit from having a few Christians hanging around. I was making a case for diversity (even if some observers didn’t see it that way).

Additionally, I would like to make another modest request: Newsrooms should also hire a few journalists who aren’t effete liberal p*ssies.

Matt provides a helpful example from Twitter of the out of touch journalists in question, featuring a long time favorite here at Hot Air.

If “gun culture” means giving guns to children,
we need to talk about gun culture.…
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) May 3, 2013

Be sure to read Matt’s story. As to mine, it’s probably not all that different.

Like many of us, I’ve had a number of guns over the years, but I have never forgotten my first one. I was eleven years old, (a date I had to go back to check) and surprisingly, it didn’t come from my father, though he was very much involved. My first rifle was given to me by my Uncle Russell, and it was a Remington Arms .22 caliber long rifle. I’m positive that it was manufactured back in the 20’s or 30’s as it had been in Russell’s family for a very long time before it was passed on to me. (I would like to add a shout out here for the venerable Remington Arms company in Ilion, New York. That rifle is still in service, now owned by one of my nephews and it still works just fine nearly 100 years after it was made. That’s quality workmanship right there, folks.)

I will note at this point that the picture on the front page for this story is of Matt and his father, not me. When preparing to do this piece I went back and looked through a couple of family photo albums and was sad to realize that we don’t seem to have a single picture of me with that rifle. We have some of me with a variety of others, including a 30:06, a 12 gauge shotgun and a .45 handgun, but none with that .22. I feel sort of bad about that.

As I was saying, during the summer when I was eleven years old I was sent for a one week visit with my Uncle Russell and Aunt Rose at their strawberry farm. On the first day there, Russell brought out his special present which, unbeknownst to me, he had arranged with my father. It was a beautiful thing, and having been badgering my father for a couple of years about getting a hunting rifle of my own, I was over the moon with happiness. The .22 was a bolt action model with a six round, spring loaded magazine which fed into the chamber from the bottom. I quickly figured out that you could get seven rounds if you filled the magazine and put one in the chamber, but this frequently caused the first round to jam, so I didn’t do it often. And, wonder of wonders, Russel had affixed a 3X scope to it! My older brother’s first rifle was a single shot model, and he would later express jealousy over how much better mine was to my great delight.

Russel took me out to his fields that first day with some paper targets set up and taught me how to safely handle it, load it and fire it. I used up a full box of ammo on that first day, and once we got the scope sighted in I was hitting a lot more than I missed by the time we were done. That evening I stared at it all through dinner and even wanted to take it to bed with me. (Hey… I never claimed to be a particularly bright child.) Russel informed me that guns needed to stay in their own gun rack at night, not in bed, and it was put away unloaded. I was never shown where he kept his ammo.

At the end of the week, Russel drove me home where we were greeted by my father. He made a great show of pretending to know nothing of this exchange, taking the rifle, removing the magazine, opening the bolt action, (ensuring it was unloaded) examining the stock and looking down the barrel “to make sure it was straight.” He pronounced it a fine weapon and thanked Russel for his generosity and made sure I had thanked him appropriately as well.

From then on, when not in use, the rifle stayed propped up in the corner of the dining room along with my father’s collection of long guns. I saved up money I earned from working at my grandfather’s farm to buy a soft leather case for it, just like the ones holding my dad’s guns. Dad had some more upstairs which were rarely brought out, including a German military rifle he took off a dead soldier in France.

He set up a place where my brother and I could practice shooting, but we always had to go to him to ask for ammo, which he kept locked up in a chest in my parent’s bedroom. My dad was big on rules, and if he ever saw you pointing a gun at or near a person, the dog, or anything you didn’t intend to shoot, he would blister your backside so you only did it once. Guns were only to be carried pointed at the ground or straight up in the air. (I know that’s not generally approved, but my dad had his own ways.)

Later, when I’d proven that I could handle it responsibly, I was allowed to go hunting in the fields and up at my Uncle Bernie’s. Bernie had several hundred acres of undeveloped land which was crawling with whitetail deer, wild turkeys, rabbits and many other things that wound up on our dinner table. My grandfather also instituted a policy where he would pay a quarter for any woodchuck that was shot in his garden. Of course, I immediately began bringing in woodchucks from across half the county to get those quarters. I’m pretty sure gramps knew that, but he gave me the quarter anyway.

I moved on from that rifle later, particularly after I turned 15 and was allowed to go deer hunting, acquiring a 30:30 rifle and a 16 gauge shotgun of my own. But I never, ever forgot that first rifle and I treasured it for years before passing it on to my nephew. And for the record, no… I did not do a damn background check on my nephew.

For all you out there railing about how criminal it is for parents to “expose” their children to weapons, that’s the story of My First Rifle. I invite everyone out there with a news site, a blog, or just access to comments sections to share their own stories.