September 14th…“BESIDES YOUR PARENT’S TEACHINGS, WERE THERE SCHOOL CLASSES FOR GUN SAFETY WHEN YOU LIVED IN MINNESOTA?”
With hands the speed of lightning, “Lucas McCain’s” sinewy arm pumped rapid-fire shells out of his Winchester 44-40 caliber rifle. After his almost dozen deadly deliveries of firepower, it was then we’d hear a crescendo of the rousing music to one of my favorite Western television shows from my youthful days on our farm. Like the greatest majority of TV shows in my era, “The Rifleman” television program didn’t spotlight on violence, but instead, focused on the many moral lessons that “Lucas McCain” (played by Chuck Connors) sought to teach to his young son as they lived out their daily life in the sometimes wild countryside of 1880’s New Mexico. True, when evil arose and sought to destroy his loved ones or the peace of the nearby town, “The Rifleman” sometimes had to enlist the power of that Winchester to thwart those who would kill or destroy for the sake of evil intent.
Cowboy shows were so exciting, but even as a child, I knew and respected the power of all firearms. Our wise, Christian parents had taught us that a rifle or a handgun were a part of the American saga of living life in a free country. A firearm was, in a sense, like any other tool that could either be used wisely, or, could injure or kill someone if used unwisely. Our dear father, Russell, (who had been raised during the Great Depression of the 1930’s), had received a 22 caliber rifle from his own father that he cherished as a proud family heirloom.
The Spring of 1967 brought with it the excitement of a Gun Safety Class that was offered there at Kiester High School in my dear hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. Dear Mr. Dale Wolfe, a very respected business owner in our town, was our teacher for the class. I seem to recall that the class was sponsored by The National Rifle Association and that the curriculum was prepared for our age level to better comprehend and learn the basic tenets of gun safety. We sat in classroom sessions for a certain number of weeks to learn first from books on the safe way to handle firearms, the parts of a rifle and pistol, etc.. Then, it was time to make a field trip with our class to take part in tests at the local gravel pit firing range. There, we’d show our instructors how to safely cross a fence line with a rifle, how to assume the proper firing positions, how to NEVER point a gun at someone (loaded or unloaded), etc.. We even had our chance to try skeet shooting with the clay pigeons as we used a borrowed 410 gauge shotgun……that was an exciting first time experience for this farm boy!! 😉
I learned a powerful gun-related lesson, one day, when we were visiting the farm of our beloved family friend, “Grandpa” Harry Bauman.
As we chatted with Harry that day in his farm home, I noticed a big Winchester Lever-action 30.06 rifle in his gun collection. This was the type of rifle I had often seen in cowboy movies and asked Harry if we could see him fire it for us. He agreed, so we stepped out of the house and into his back yard. Harry chambered a shell in the rifle and told us to look over at a young tree sapling that had a main trunk of about 8 inches in diameter. “Grandpa” Harry first told us to cover our ears with our hands for protection from the sound of the blast. Bringing the rifle’s stock and sight to his shoulder, he aimed and then Harry pulled the trigger. An explosion occurred that made every crow jump into the air from the trees around his farm. We walked over to that young tree with our “grandpa” and saw how that bullet had entered cleanly on one side of the tree trunk, but totally shredded the back side of the tree. That hour of power was something that has impressed me to this very day, and settled an even deeper respect into my psyche for the power that is wielded by the user of said weapon.
I am so deeply grateful for growing up in the age of American life when gun ownership was looked upon as being as normal as “hot-dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”!!! We all, especially as Christians, need to embrace God’s respect for life and living out His principles in our daily walk with one another…..especially when it comes to handling of firearms. Sadly, our society today looks upon gun owners as evil unto themselves, rather than respectful American citizens that have every right, according to the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution, to lawfully own a firearm to use to protect, defend and even feed our families if the need arises to do so. Even in the Bible, one sees that it’s not the inanimate object that is evil, it is the intent of an evil heart that kills. In Genesis Chapter 4, we see that Cain killed his brother, Abel. Likely, it was a wooden club, or a rock that was used to carry out that bloody deed. Do we then outlaw all rocks and large pieces of wood? No, of course not. Let us, as Christians, always seek to respect the beauty and sacredness of life, first and foremost. Then, firearms, in the hands of a law-abiding and godly citizen will be merely a continuation of the saga in America that can be a tool and not a terror. So shares the heart of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.