Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sons of Guns

(UPDATED -- See below)

Hey!  Did you hear about the new show coming to Discovery Channel?  During a commercial break yesterday on Discovery, on came a preview for "Sons of Guns," a "reality show" that follows a custom weapons manufacturer and their amazing skills at creating new and deadly weapons, premiering Jan 26.  Canons!  Silencers!  Military assault rifles!  Why, it's like American Chopper gone ballistic -- literally.  I'll bet it's going to be fascinating prime-time, with lots of things blowing up, neat details about current and historical weapons, details on fine metalworking, and no doubt some fascinating characters doing the work.  Another notch in the handle of America's ever-expanding gun culture!

Oh, but ... wait.  Do we really need yet another reminder of our gun culture?  Turn the TV to any other channel and I would bet really good money that whatever show you have turned to will feature some form of violence, usually involving guns.  Here in the Odinson house, I have worked very hard to keep my 5- and 6-year-old kids away from it.  Do you have any idea how hard that is?  No toy guns.  No TV shows or movies with guns.  I even take away the little plastic guns that come with action figures!  And yet guns are so pervasive they STILL show up.  Pink Panther episodes.  Animated Disney movies.  The little LEGO pirate kit my son got.  The kid down the street who brings his plastic guns over (and got a scolding from me not to do it again).  But I think I've succeeded.  My kids will actually turn away toy guns on their own, now, or turn the TV channel, without me even being in the room.

Okay.  I know what some of you are thinking.  "Damned bleeding heart liberal!  What's the big deal?  It's not like a little toy gun is going to make a big difference!"   I know.  I understand.  Trust me, I grew up in a house with real guns.  I LOVED all those little action figure guns, had BB guns and pellet guns and plastic toy guns, and watched so many violent kids movies it's a wonder my brain didn't bleed.  I'm still alive!  You are too!

But don't say that to the Reppond family of Joplin, Missouri.   Their sweet 14-year-old daughter went to a sleepover with three of her friends, on December 29, at the home of Scott Arkle.  Arkle had just gotten a nifty new concealed weapons holster for Christmas and put his .38 handgun in it, then walked away, leaving it unlocked, loaded, and without the safety on, laying on top of a piano.  When the girls walked in and discovered it, they were curious, like most kids, and picked it up.  That's when one of them "removed it from the holster, assuming it was not loaded. She pointed the gun in a joking manner at the Reppond girl and the weapon discharged, the sheriff said."  Young Megan Reppond died later at the hospital.  Mr. Arkle will not be charged, since, as in nearly everywhere in America, Missouri does not have any CAP (Child Access Prevention) laws that require guns be stored locked and unloaded and impose criminal liability on adults who negligently leave firearms accessible to children.  He's quite the "son of guns" now.

No home with children should have a gun, even if it's locked up (kids have an uncanny ability to find keys and combinations, or reach those high shelves).  Always ASK if the home your child goes to has any guns present, and avoid it if it does.  Asking Saves Kids.  More than a third of homes with children have at least one firearm.  "But only 39% of these families keep their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 43% of these U.S. homes with children and guns reported keeping one or more firearms in an unlocked place and without a trigger lock. Nine percent keep their guns loaded as well as unlocked."  (source)

Sadly, accidental shootings like this happen every day in America.  Our culture of violence is so strong that we barely pay attention to the headlines when they are reported, even with children.  I don't know what the Reppond family did, if anything, to help little Megan grow up to understand gun violence, but clearly it wasn't enough to keep her away from the gun.  Doubly so for the other 14-year-old girl who pulled the trigger.  Now do you think I'm over-reacting with my own kids?

Who's really to blame for the death?  All of us. I don't fault Discovery Channel for launching Sons of Guns, really.  They're just feeding a popular culture, for all those Scott Arkles and Megan Repponds to watch.  It's now up to us, all of us, to change that culture and set a new trajectory for our society.  Don't watch it.  Send them a note protesting it, as I have.  And start acting at home to limit your family's exposure.

If we've done our job right, my son (and daughter) won't be a "son of guns," or a victim of one.

UPDATE (12/18/14):  A star of the now-cancelled "Sons of Guns" reality TV show, Will Hayden, has been arrested for forcibly raping two preteen girls, ages 11 and 12 at the time, and also for making moves on his own daughter, and co-star of the show, Stephanie Hayden Ford, when she was only 12.  This former owner of Red Jacket Firearms has spent his life making lethal weapons and preparing himself to kill people.  With constant dark thoughts like that, should we really be surprised that his mind with to other dark corners?


  1. Just a warning: your total gun prohibition plan for your children won't work. I grew up in a gun free household because my mom was dead set against them. Not only that, but I wasn't allowed to have any toy guns (but I guess I did have the little ones with my GI Joes). We also didn't have a TV, so I didn't see any violent programming (or movies) unless I watched them at a friend's place. My mom also kept us away from violent movies at the theater, at least until I was old enough to have friends that could drive us to whatever movies we wanted to see. I tell you all this to say that she failed miserably. After I graduated HS, I went to West Point and spent five years as a combat arms officer. During that time, and continuing to the present, I became a gun collector (nearly 40 or so now) and self defense advocate with CCW. It just doesn't work, man, sorry to say!

  2. Hi, Colin. Thanks for your comment.

    You misunderstand. My goal isn't to create children who grow up to hate all guns in all situations and think them evil. This is a strange assumption which is perpetuated by the NRA, that gun control is about gun banning. My goal is to have children who understand the dangers of guns and understand when it is appropriate for people to have them. I would say your parents raised you to be a success, from what you've told me. I can't say that we have everything in common in this area, but I have no problem if my children turn out the same (though there are less deadly hobbies to pursue than gun collection).

  3. Well, Baldr, thanks for your compliment. I also believe that I am a well-adjusted member of our society that just happens to enjoy collecting and shooting guns and assumes the responsibility for my own protection as well as those close to me. I don't have children yet, but when I do, I plan to introduce them to firearms safety and the joys of shooting (and it is a blast when you knock that can off the rail with one shot) as soon as they are mature enough to do so (hopefully around the age of 7 or 8 if they're anything like I was). I want them to know all the options available to them, and if they then decide that guns aren't for them, that's fine by me. Alternatively, I will make sure to send them out into the world of adulthood with a good functional firearm or two (maybe something from my own collection) with which to defend themselves and start their own collections.

    I didn't mean to insinuate that you were raising your children to be gun-banners or anything, I was just trying to point out from my own experience that perhaps familiarization with firearms might remove some of the mystery from them, and make them less likely to want anything to do with firearms when they're older. I'm sure my mom hoped that I would just grow out my hair, join the Peace Corps, and hand out rice to third world children while wearing Birkenstocks, but it didn't exactly work out that way.

    I also commend you for keeping your children away from violent imagery, as I believe that our national culture of violence has much more to do with our problems than the presence of firearms. In 50's television, the sheriff in the white outfit could neutralize the bad guy in the black outfit with his shiny six-gun with very little of the extreme violence of today's action programming, while at the same time anyone could order a GI M1911 .45 from the back of a magazine for $25 with no background check or anything. Yet there was seemingly much less violence then than there is now. What has changed? In my opinion it is the absence of solid parenting, coupled with a constant barrage of violent imagery that desensitizes our children to violence while failing to teach them the basic, adult methods of resolving disputes peacefully. When we solve this problem, I believe we will go a long way towards addressing the issue of violence of any kind (including gun violence).

  4. I agree that parenting is key. Some of the kids I ran with were a pretty bad crowd in my teen years. Some joined gangs. Most abused alcohol and drugs. One wound up on federal death row for murder. Guns were available. But I didn't do anything more than a bit of drinking, even though I was depressed. One difference between me and those other kids was that I had a very good mother, who knew me well and my limitations, and trusted me because of it.

    But you and I might differ in one way: children are naturally curious and impetuous, and accidents happen when you mix them with guns. I hope that, when you have kids, you will at least keep your firearms all locked and unloaded, preferably in a safe (although older kids have a knack for finding keys and combinations) and ammunition stored elsewhere.

    Regardless of this, I think we can find common ground in a program called the ASK Program, which I will blog about soon. This is a program from Ceasefire Oregon which simply promotes that parents ask about guns in the homes their children visit. Few actually do ask. By asking, they can be aware of whether guns are present and if they are stored safely away from childrens' curiosity, and make suitable decisions based on your own values. I would love to see it incorporated into gun safety programs. Here is a link to the site if you are interested:

  5. Arkle had just gotten a nifty new concealed weapons holster for Christmas and put his .38 handgun in it, then walked away, leaving it unlocked, loaded, and without the safety on, laying on top of a piano.

    Aside from this tragic situation, what you wrote tells me a lot about your knowledge of firearms. .38 caliber concealed carry firearms are most likely revolvers. Revolvers do not have safeties. It is hard to take someone seriously who works for an organization that advocates banning specific weapon parts and yet does not have a working knowledge of firearms and their parts.

  6. Ah, you're right, PT. My mistake. I didn't pay enough attention. But an oversight hardly disqualifies my comments.

  7. I've heard of the ASK Program, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, my libertarian side would be offended if someone else had the nerve to pry into my affairs like that, but on the other hand, my realist side acknowledges that there are some morons out there that my kids might not be safe around. However, I think the better question to ask of a potential playmate's parents is, "Will you be supervising our children at all times?" That is a reasonable question, much less intrusive than the guns question, and really strikes to the root of ANY potential problem, not just firearms accidents. That being said, I have no real problem with the existence of that program; it may work quite well for some people, but I just don't feel that it's for me.

    In the end, I think I will probably just go with normalizing guns for my children, so that they know what they are, how they work, and how to handle them safely. Gun safety would of course be age appropriate, from "don't touch--leave" as young children to the Four Rules as they gain years and maturity. I can't be with them at all times, and I can't predict every possible hazard to them, so I will attempt to equip them with as much knowledge as possible in order for them to make good decisions when confronted with difficult situations.

    Finally, I don't believe that all guns should be left locked and unloaded (although most of mine are), as it means they aren't ready for self-defense. When I have children, I will have even more of an incentive to protect my family from harm, so that would definitely be counterproductive. However, I totally agree that guns and unsupervised children don't mix, so I have a two-pronged solution. First, both my wife and I already carry from when we get up in the morning until when we go to bed at night; this ensures that we are prepared to meet a violent threat whenever and wherever it may occur, but the firearm is still secured and under our direct control at all times (and away from children). Second, I will obtain some form of quick release locking device for my shotgun, or provide an external lock on my bedroom door (would also double as a safe room for the family), so that I can have a more effective means of defense relatively handy, but not accessible by children. Remember, a handgun is just to fight your way back to the long gun you should never have put down!

    Also, I meant to say in response to your first comment that there are much more dangerous hobbies than gun collecting; skydiving, rock climbing, bungee jumping and even swimming (statistically) all spring to mind!

  8. "Regardless of this, I think we can find common ground in a program called the ASK Program, which I will blog about soon. This is a program from Ceasefire Oregon which simply promotes that parents ask about guns in the homes their children visit."

    Interesting. I am on the pro gun side of the argument, and my kids are both 19+ years old now.

    When they were young and had friends visit, I always made it a point to tell the parents that there were firearms in my house. I never had someone keep their child from visiting because of it. The guns were all locked in safes with the exception of one nightstand gun. That gun had a a special lock that I could access but that no child could have the strength and coordination to open. Personally I think it is a good and responsible idea for a parent to ask that question.

    Oh my gosh. Common ground.

  9. Indeed, 18Echo. Common ground is good.

  10. I haven't read all the comments, I actually found this page while reading your comment about that stupid show on another website. But to my comment point:
    You do realize that when you keep a child from something that it makes them curious about that thing right? Yes, I know, your kids tell you that they don't want/like/need guns...I used to tell my parents a load of horse manure too if I knew it would shut them up or get them off my case!
    But think about it. Who's more likely to pick up a firearm and discharge it while it's pointed at someone? A kid who you've taught proper firearm usage/technique/handling or a kid that only knows that to learn about it they have to play with it?
    I fear for your children sir.

  11. Anonymous, my children are 5 and 6. They have no business at all being around guns for any purpose whatsoever. When they are older, if they are interested, I have no objection to having them learn about gun safety and even be able to handle them with supervision, but not through ownership in our family. Your fear is unfounded if they develop a healthy respect for safety first, just as with any other dangerous item. It's your children I fear for.

  12. You claim to not be a gun banner...your avatar would indicate otherwise.

  13. Jimmy, the avatar I use, entitled "Non-Violence" (but better known as "the knotted gun") is actually dedicated to a message of non-violence, not gun banning (of course, guns are used in the majority of deadly violent encounters, worldwide). The sculptor was inspired by the shooting death of John Lennon, and the sculpture was given as a gift from the government of Luxembourg to the United Nations, and now stands in the United Nations plaza.

    Here is a link to the sculpture's information:

  14. you know, if you actually educated your children on guns, REAL guns, at a young age, the chance of a tragedy happening when they come across a neighbors gun will be dramatically cut. The mystique is taken away, they understand the consequences, and can take charge of securing the weapon. Why would you expect a LACK of education to result in a positive result upon exposure ? Removing them from your life just adds to the mystique, and assures that your children will not have a clue how to handle such a situation. Son of guns is a great show btw.

  15. Anonymous, my children don't need live weapons to understand the safety implications. Remember, they are 5 and 6. Anyone who thinks children of that age need to handle weapons is sick. When they are older, I will expose them if they wish, but in a controlled environment away from my home. It won't result in some sort of magical "mystique", and they won't have guns around to endanger them.

  16. I am a gunsmith...and first off...I find this son of guns show horribly embarassing and sickening...just the way his staff acts so nnonchalant about the weapons systems is scary.... and when it comes to children, I have had much better luck with educating them about safe gune use. Personally I hate toy guns that look real (nerf guns, little action figure guns and water guns are perfectly ok to me...but when a toy gun looks and feels identitical to a real one we begin to have a confusion issue)

  17. RE: the Sons of Guns Show: Ya know some crazy person just hit record on their PVR, right? Way to provide fodder with instructions for the next highway sniper spree....

  18. BO,
    I see your point having a firearm around the house is just a tragedy waiting to happen. In 2008 the CDC reports this.
    50.4% of all deaths for children ages 1-17 are caused by Motor Vehicle accidents. Thats a total of 2829 deaths.
    1.7% of all deaths for children ages 1-17 are caused by Firearms. That is if your keeping score (and I always do) 98 deaths.
    Now we all know that firearms are dangerous and I agree that safety of our children is paramount. But let me ask you this have you ever let your kids ride in someone else's vehicle and not checked their driving record? Or maybe taken a call on your cellphone while driving them around? My friend I think you have it wrong sell the Volvo and buy some guns and a safe!!!