We start at a very young age to teach our children how to handle the dangerous items of our world safely.
We teach them never to run with scissors, and to carry them with the pointy side down. Likewise to carry knives point down and never run, and be sure to keep fingers curved out of the way, and the point in contact with the cutting surface to prevent slipping while we are cutting our food. Every sharp object comes with a caution. Every electrical appliance comes with a warning to keep away from water, to unplug when not in use, the toaster, the oven, the lamp, and the list goes on. Cars are so dangerous we must pass a test and get a license which is renewed every few years, because it is dangerous not only to ourselves, but to others.
Guns, another dangerous item, has created controversy, because gun ownership is protected under the constitution, and some feel that simple registration of a firearm is limiting our protection under the law of our right to bear arms. Every time a gun related tragedy occurs each side becomes more entrenched in their position.
Recently a 9 year old girl killed her gun instructor on an Arizona gun range. Instructor Charles Vucca, 39, was killed while showing the girl the safe operation of a submachine gun, also called an Uzi. Listening to the report, and then listening to the mothers at work boasting of their daughters firing an Uzi and showing off the videos on their phones, all I could think of were Jarts.
You might not be familiar with Jarts, a lawn darts game consisting of colorful plastic fins and a heavy 5 inch metal tip which became illegal in 1988. My family had one of these games, which were a lot easier to set up with its plastic ring target to toss the Jart into than a game of horseshoes. With that heavy, metal tip I could clearly see the potential for danger, but the game was fun, just as Horseshoes is fun, and still has an underground following.
My defense of the game was much like the defense of gun owners. I kept the game hidden out of the reach my children, on a very high shelf they did not have access to. My husband got the ladder out to retrieve the game from its hiding place when we wanted to play. We played in a very safe way, with everyone on one side, tossing the Jarts to the ring on the other side, each person taking their turn. “Jarts didn’t kill people, careless people killed people”. My children were learning the correct way to play with this dangerous item. My children were learning the right way. My children would never be careless with something I was so careful to make clear to them was dangerous.
And this is what I thought until the day my 30 something oldest son told me that between ages of 8 to 10 he and a friend got out the ladder, got the game down from its hiding place, and would toss the Jarts into the air and lay down to see how close to their heads they could get the Jarts to land. My son and his friend did this many times.
In 1988 Jarts were taken off the market the weekend before Christmas. My son was 15 years old, and thankfully had outgrown this game. Eventually, I did get rid of Jarts. Thank God neither my son nor his friend got killed, but many people did, and Jarts was only a game.
Gun safety is a major issue in the United States. How do we teach children the proper respect for firearms, and how to handle firearms safely? How do we protect others from the harm that can occur from the mishandling of firearms? What kind of gun regulation can keep firearms from getting into the hands of people who clearly should not have them? How do we protect children from the consequences of the dangers guns pose?