Earlier this year in Arkansas, nine-year-old Hank asked if he could go rabbit hunting, alone, with his .22-caliber rifle. His uncle said OK, because the boy had been hunting with his family all through his childhood
Hank never came back. He slipped somehow, the rifle went off, and he was shot in the forehead.
Both Kelli and Brad, from whom she is separated, believe that the gun was faulty - it shouldn’t have gone off unless the trigger was pulled, they claim. Since Hank’s death, she’s been posting warnings on her Facebook page about the gun her son used: “I wish someone else had posted warnings about it before what happened,” she says.
Had Kelli not bought the gun and had Brad not trained his son to use it, Hank would have celebrated his 10th birthday on 6 June, which his mother commemorated by posting Hank’s picture on her Facebook page with the message: “Happy Birthday Hank! Mommy loves you!”
Little Hank thus became one in a tally of what the makers of a Channel 4 documentary called Kids and Guns claim to be 3,000 American children who die each year from gun-related accidents. A recent Yale University study found that more than 7,000 US children and adolescents are hospitalised or killed by guns each year and estimates that about 20 children a day are treated in US emergency rooms following incidents involving guns.
Another nine-year-old in Texas named Gia hunts zombies — cardboard cutouts her father places in trees, and has other targets for her shooting practice.
Instead of playing with Barbie dolls, Gia shoots them as target practice near her home. She owns six pistols, a shotgun and a Winchester rifle. Her dad has even more, and says: “There’s an expression in Texas: ‘If you know how many guns you’ve got, you haven’t got enough.’”
Again, Spyder, a single father, considers himself to be a good parent. He teaches his daughter the four rules of gun safety, rule four of which is: Know your target and what is behind it. “I taught her to have her finger off the trigger and point the gun away. That was already ingrained in her by [age] five. If you live in Texas or Oklahoma where there are guns, you’ve got to teach them that part,” says Spyder.
What about those who say that teaching children to use guns is wrong? “Tough shit. That’s what we do.”
More: Kids, Guns and the American Way
Both families, and several others are featured in a Channel 4 documentary, Kids and Guns, which airs in the UK on July 31. According to The Guardian, it’s a non-judgmental look at how Americans gun-users raise their children, and how Americans avoid examination of the sometimes painful consequences of easy gun ownership.