There will be those who disagree with me, but I believe a first shotgun is a wonderful Christmas gift. The uniquely shaped, elongated box under the tree generally won’t fool anybody for long, but as the recipient of many gift-wrapped guns over the years, I can tell you the thought of receiving a new gun for Christmas inspires many hours of happy anticipation and a lifetime of joy.
Should you elect to give a youthful hunter or budding shooter in your life a firearm (or even a BB gun) as a gift this Christmas, you must be aware the act involves a great deal of responsibility. The new gun owner is endowed with tremendous responsibility in owning a gun; that’s obvious. However, as the giver of a firearm, you are taking on great responsibility as well.
First, it’s up to you to analyze if the recipient is truly ready for the responsibility of firearm ownership. Tradition and age should play little to no role in your decision. Sincere assessments of the would-be recipient’s maturity and readiness to own a firearm are what’s important. Does he or she exhibit the necessary level of responsibility in the rest of his or her life? Is there clearly evident understanding of the difference between tools and toys, fun-time and time to be serious?
You must also determine whether the recipient can legally “own” a firearm. Technically, minors can not. Depending on the state, jurisdiction, and type of firearm, the minimum age might even be 21 years. I’m all for youth having their “own” gun when they are truly ready for it, but you must obey the law. If you are not the parent or legal guardian, then you need to make arrangements with whoever is that they will legally “own” the firearm until the recipient comes of age.
No one should be given a firearm without safety training. An important part of a firearm gift—at least equal to the physical firearm itself—should be the giver’s commitment to teaching the recipient to own and use the gun safely and responsibly. This can be done by including a gift card for formal training or by committing to spending time together at the range learning how the firearms works, how to shoot it well and safely, and talking about responsible gun ownership.
There are also important considerations of storage of the firearm in the recipient’s home. Is the household ready for a gun? Is everyone on board for this, especially if it’s a first gun? The best case scenario involves a real safe in which to store the gun and to which a true newbie does not yet have access. If that’s not feasible, then at the very least trigger or action locks to which the responsible adult controls the keys. The motto of the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Project ChildSafe is ultimate common sense—“Own it? Respect it. Secure it.” That means every gun gets locked up, every time!
One final, practical tip: don’t put ammo under the tree with a new gun. My own dad learned this one long ago. “Santa” brought me my first BB gun. It was a Daisy, but not a Red Ryder. It was a model that looked like lever-action Winchester. The gift came with a tube of BBs wrapped right in the box. Despite multiple warnings about not loading the gun in the house, less than two hours after the last bow hit the floor next to the tree, there was a deep BB-sized dent in the ceiling of our family room, and the gun was already “put away” for a month!
A few years later, the next elongated box showed up under the tree with my name on it. This time it was my first shotgun—a Remington 870 Wingmaster 20 gauge. Dad made sure there was not a box of 20 gauge ammo anywhere in the house let alone under the tree. After a week, when the initial excitement waned a bit, he took me to the hardware store where we picked out a box of ammo together and it gave him the chance to teach me about shotshells and to stress again the magnitude of my responsibility as a gun owner. That was 40 years ago this Christmas, and I still remember and cherish that trip to the hardware store!
Another small, elongated box any hunter or shooter is excited to see under the Christmas tree contains a ThermaCELL Insect Repellant appliance. It’s a great gift or stocking stuffer for anyone who enjoys the outdoors—and that means pretty much everyone! Curious about how a ThermaCELL really works? Check out this new video!
These insights brought to you by Federal Premium Ammunition, ThermaCELL, Camp Chef, and the Quebec Outfitters Federation.
Image courtesy Bill Miller