The Guardian Broadcast
"Providing Concealed Carry & Armed Self-Defense Wisdom."
A podcast by Patrick Kilchermann, founder of the Concealed Carry University.
"Controversial – When and How I Teach My Kids About Firearms"
As with all things related to parenting, there is never a shortage of opinions or criticism of ANY method of doing anything, but in this broadcast I will talk about one of those topics anyway: kids and firearm exposure and training.
Listen using the audio player above OR read the text transcript of this podcast below.
Note: 100% accuracy on text transcription is not guaranteed.
This week, I want to explore a topic that is sensitive and hazardous, and that is: how and when we should talk to our kids about guns, and when and how we should allow our kids to play with toy guns. Why am I bringing this up? Because, I’ve been asked many times now what my philosophy is on these matters, and I wanted to voice it in an open forum.
To open this conversation, I want to clarify: I’m not going to be presenting what I think is the only way to raise kids in a firearm-friendly household. I think every family is different, and each approach is going to be different. What I say today is simply my approach. So, here goes. To understand why I raise my kids the way I do, I need to give some background in the life and times of Patrick Kilchermann. Bear with me… and humor me for a minute.
When I was a kid, I grew up very much in a hands-off household. My parents didn’t think too far ahead about safety of mind or body – we could pretty much do whatever we wanted. We wandered our small town freely, and we could play with whatever we wanted.
My father never owned a handgun, but he had many hunting rifles and shotguns. He was definitely not what I’d call a ‘gun guy’ – he was a hunter and owned and kept guns only insofar as they supported his ability to hunt. Our firearms experience every year looked like this: we would take our scoped shotguns to the range and fire 2 or 3 rounds to make sure they were accurate. Then, we’d hunt with them. Maybe we shot something, maybe we didn’t. After every hunt, we’d wipe them down with an oily rag, and at the end of the season, we’d do a thorough cleaning. When gun season was over, we’d pack the guns away in our glass gun cabinet, and we wouldn’t touch them for a year.
That said – firearms took a huge back seat in our house and in my community to bows and arrows. It wasn’t an option; we shot bows almost every day of the year. My father was the best archer in our small town, which was contested regularly with 50 yard shoots in front of the headlights of half a dozen pickup trucks. All the men in the town would shoot into the wee hours, betting money on each group. In my dad’s hunting room, he kept a large stack of arrows which he had “Robin-Hooded”; our word for when an archer is so precise that he fires an arrow directly down the shaft of the previous arrow, creating one freakishly long arrow.
I began shooting bow and arrow when I was 4 years old and began shooting competitively when I was 8. Also at age 8 I began sitting with my dad in tree stands, and at age 11 I began sitting by myself. We shot our bows almost every day of the year. My dad would say, “I want you to shoot at least one group every day. If it’s a perfect group, then you can hang it up. If it’s not, shoot until you get a perfect one.” If it was raining or ten below zero, we’d stand in the doorway of the garage, and shoot down our driveway into whatever target we were using.
That’s just the way it was. I won many tournaments as a kid, and I killed a bunch of deer. It was understood that I was required to hunt every day of the season until I moved out of the house, but getting a serious job at age 16 became the only reason my dad would accept to miss a hunt. I definitely do not want to make it sound as though I don’t look back very gratefully on my childhood and my hunting experiences, because I do. I respect my father deeply, and I do believe the man is a legendary hunter. I’ve watched him jump over 4 foot fences with a fully loose-leaf ghillie suit on and bow in hand; I’ve watched him kill a buck from 80 yards with his bow and I’ve watched him chase a wounded buck down and tackle it, killing it with a knife. It was an incredible childhood.
But that said: I got a huge dose of hunting growing up, at a time when a little diversity would have been nice. All winter long, we were cutting and welding and mending tree stands, and driving around observing deer herd activities, and walking field after field looking for shed horns. All spring long, we were scouting woods’, looking for deer sign, planning hunting perches. All summer long, we were hanging tree stands, keeping them clear of foliage growth, and checking on them frequently. This activity intensified as fall came around, and of course when hunting season began on October 1st, we were in the woods daily, often morning and night. Hunting mornings were a legitimate reason to be late for school; and homework or projects were not a legitimate reason to miss an evening sit. My dad had a huge circle of friends, and at least a couple times per week, one of them would hit a buck. Usually it was a clean kill and the process of recovery, field dressing, skinning, and ‘BS-ing’ in someone’s garage would put us in bed by 9 or 10pm. But if it was a poor shot, we’d track blood trails or comb for a deer corpse through woods and field and river into the wee hours. It was an eerie feeling as a ten year old to be holding only a dim flashlight, and hearing the voices of a dozen men spreading out in all directions, getting fainter and fainter in the pitch black, but that was life.
It was an adventurous childhood and I treasure my memories, but like I said: this dose of hunting was about enough for me. I hunted off and on so as not to disappoint my old man until I was 18, but when I moved out, that was it. I sold my bow, and I haven’t fired an arrow since.
Okay, that was quite an intro. But, it’s February and things are slow. I say all this to set the stage for the ‘kid and gun philosophy’ that I’m about to outline, and also to make a critical point:
I have accepted that I can’t control or care whether any of my sons or daughters ever adopt the Guardian lifestyle. Maybe they’ll have the bug – maybe they won’t. Statistics seem to say they won’t. I accept that, and I do not expect anything of them in this regard. Sure: it would be a fantasy to run and gun with a kid of mine, but I don’t want them doing anything only because they want my acceptance. Therefore, I’m not going to push guns on them.
Another important component of my philosophy is that I want to let my kids be kids for as long as possible. Now, I don’t think dead deer and blood and guts was even remotely harmful to my childhood. I believe hunting is natural, and I believe it’s in our DNA. And while I preferred not to be standing directly downwind when some incompetent field-dresser nicked a bloated stomach with his blade, releasing a tidal wave of disgusting gas, none of these things ever disturbed me. But that’s hunting. I am firm in my resolution that guns are ultimately tools designed for the killing of human beings, and to that end, I will not introduce my oldest to firearms until he can understand what mortality is, what lethality is, and therefore what an awesome responsibility a firearm is. I believe this happens around 6 years old.
Until that age, I do not condone the playing with of toy guns for my own kids.
Next, a question I get a lot is, how do I handle concealed carry? “Surely the kids see your handgun all the time.”
I know many police officers and Guardians who make a show of putting on or taking off their gun. They explain to their young children what it is and why they carry it, and they even make it safe and let them explore it under their supervision in order to dispel any curiosity. That might work wonders for some families.
For my young children, I’m not interested in explaining that their father carries something every day that must be hidden – because to justify doing anything in secret requires quite an understanding of the world. And so, you listeners may be surprised to learn that my young children don’t know that I carry concealed. My gun remains hidden constantly, and when I am ready to take it off, it discreetly goes into a SentrySafe biometric and combination gun safe. Again, beyond age 6, when their understanding of the world is a bit more in order and when they can comprehend good and evil, concealed carry and Guardianhood, virtue and morality are things I’m always eager to discuss. But before then, my senses tell me that they just aren’t ready, and trying to advance them too quickly will only confuse them.
Besides, I know that mechanically a kid under 4 has essentially zero impulse control and I can just imagine being in a perfectly quiet church during a lull, setting my noisy toddler on my lap, and having him or her announce in their insanely loud “whisper” voice: “DADDY, IS THAT YOUR GUN?"
Without making a show of my weapons or of concealed carry, they – as in so many other ways – simply don’t question what the hard object under my shirt is. In all these years, it’s never come up once.
Another question I get refers to gun safety. There’s the assumption that eventually your kids WILL come across a gun in your house, and so they need to be educated as to what to do about it. Beyond age 6, I totally agree. At this age, they can reach and get into things that I don’t think a police detective could find. But before then, I disagree. I own dozens of firearms; it’s not hard for me to keep them ALL locked up in a combination safe that even a 5 hour blaze couldn’t open. All, that is, except my carry gun which – again – goes into a safe any time it’s not on my body. What about friends’ houses? Well, my kids don’t or won’t do sleep-overs before age 8, and by then they’ve learned these lessons. And even then, and even in the case of day visits – my kids won’t be staying with anyone without mine or my wife’s direct supervision unless I know their gun policy, unless they know mine, and unless they’re willing to ensure that there are no guns outside a locked safe or cabinet. It’s really not that difficult to do.
All that said, the process of introducing a child to firearms (first toys, then BB guns, then pellet guns, then rim fire rifles, then sporting clays, and on and on) is one of my most treasured and coveted moments as a father, and I’ve got a long, graduated process for this as well, in which I test the responsibility of the child, and make sure his or her ability to hurt themselves or anyone else is always lagging distantly behind their responsibility level.
We can talk about that another time, but I hope these words today might mean something, and might help some people.
If you disagree with me on any or all of this, always write in and let me know your thoughts.