Join Date: November 2, 1998
Ezekiel Baker, the man who built the rifle that was carried by the 5/60 (Royal Americans and later King's Royal Rifle Corps) and also the 95th (Rifle Brigade), cautioned his readers about the necessity of teaching youngsters firearms safety. He penned his words sixty years earlier that this article from the Oct. 19, 1873 edition of the New York Times:
Our Young Sharp-Shooters.
Marksmanship is an accomplishment in which the youth of every free and manly nation ought to be proficient, and our columns will bear witness that we have not been backward in pressing its cultivation upon the young men of our own country. It is an exercise, too, which like riding and dancing, and indeed most other physical exercises, is best mastered in youth. There is such a thing, however, as beginning too early, and upon too practical a basis. Sharp-shooting, of course, presupposes warfare, and the eventual possibility of human targets being substituted for those of wood and earth. Yet, until the unpleasant contingency is realized, it is well to practice on inanimate butts, by which means all reasonable and necessary skill may be acquired quite as readily and wth less inconvenience than by perforating men instead of bulls-eyes.
This caution appears to be necessary, because, judging from some late occurrences, there is a growing tendency among our very young sharp-shooters to dispense with the formality of target practice, and to prosecute their studies upon the living model. Among these impatient marksmen are some little boys in the neighborhood of the Five Points. A night or two ago, they went into training for the next war by erecting an impromptu Creedmoor on a pile of boards upon one side of the street, and firing at it from the other. It was a trifle awkward for the neighbors until they got the exact range, but no patriot will grude a little discomfort in the interest of his country. But presently there fell a sense of monotony upon the small contestants, and just then a private watchman happening to come along, one of the young sharp-shooters selected him for a target, and made a most excellent shot. It was unfortunate, certainly, that this particular watchman should have had a wife and five children, who are now left destitute; but that does not detract from the skill of the marksmen. this shot carried off the prize of the tournament, which, we trust, will be a permanent residence in the Penitentiary at the expense of the State.
Not less expert was that other little boy of Iowa, also with a taste for sharp-shooting. Although but eleven years of age, he succeeded at his first trial in blowing off the head of his little sister with a fowling-piece, which his judicious parents had presented him for the cultivation of his peculiar talent. But the nicest and most promising of all the little boys and marksmen that have just turned up, are undoubtedly two whose young ideas were first taught to shoot in Reading, Penn. On last Saturday this guileless pair strolled forth into the suburbs to practice their favorite exercise. What ducks and geese fell victims to their fatal skills before they chanced on nobler game, is not revealed. It is known, however, that they had fired at, and, by some unaccountable mischance, barely missed, a little girl aged four, previous to achieving their crowning triumph. This arrived when they found two smaller obys perched on the top of a walnut-tree, gathering nuts. This was an irresistible temptation of superior skill, of which our Reading champions did not hesitate to avail themselves. Taking accurate aim, one of them brought down the younger of the nutgatherers as neatly and as tranquilly as though he had been a squirrel. With a modesty not seldom allied to unusual skill, they did not stay to receive the congratulations and awards which their triumph called for, but hastily departed, and have not since been heard of.
Now, all of this shows a gratifying progress in marksmanship, and a still more satisfying interest in the subject among our youthful population. Still, on the whole, we think it would be better if they practiced on wooden targets, and not on other little boys and girls, or even private watchmen. Not even the great importance to the country of training up a body of skilled sharp-shooters will compensate for the speedy depopulation that would ensure if this sort of live target practice were encouraged.
Firearms ownership carries with it responsibility. Unfortunately, none of these shooters had been schooled in it, in firearms safety and were unsupervised in their shooting activity.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!