My brother Ronald knew how to safely use a rifle before he entered the fifth grade.
His two kids — Joshua and Jennifer — were introduced to shooting long before puberty.
Joshua was a serious contender for the Junior Olympics Rifle competition and earned a partial college scholarship based on his marksman skills.
Ron is involved in running the Junior Rifle program that’s part of the Lincoln Rifle Club. The 80-year-old organization has more than 1,200 members who access indoor and outdoor ranges.
My brother, nephew and niece are not gun nuts, as some who are doing a full-court press on Second Amendment rights like to call those who own guns in America.
As for me, I have never shot a gun and have no desire to own one. You could fill a good-sized football stadium with all of the people I’ve known over the years — relatives, friends, and acquaintances — who own guns. I can’t count one murderer among them.
Nor would I find it alarming if any of them showed me photos of their kids holding a hunting rifle, any more than if they were holding a baseball bat.
That is why I have to be a bit worried about where the gun debate is going in this country when police show up at your home and demand to see guns, based on a Facebook photo of your 11-year-old son holding a .22-caliber hunting rifle that resembles a military-style assault rifle.
That photo prompted a call to the New Jersey child welfare folks, who showed up at the home of Shawn Moore along with four police officers.
Moore keeps his guns in a safe. They are not registered since it is not mandatory in New Jersey.
He asked if they had a search warrant. They said no. They ended up leaving, as did the child welfare investigators. Nothing else happened. Moore happened to have his lawyer on speaker phone throughout the incident.
I get that there has to be regulation. I support background checks and waiting periods. I also favor aggressive advertising campaigns that remind gun owners to be responsible and secure their weapons when they are not at home. Guns stolen from law-abiding citizens are the primary weapons used by criminals.
And I have a bit of a problem with rifles being made to look like a military assault weapon when they aren’t.
That said, having four officers show up on the doorstep of a law-abiding citizen demanding to see their guns only because of a photo posting makes me uneasy.
Is it any different than if someone had seen Moore and his son shooting guns at a range? Does that qualify as a threat to the child’s welfare and safety?
Long before the Internet, it wasn’t uncommon for newspapers to carry photos of young hunters with a deer they shot while posing with a rifle. That never triggered - pun intended - calls to child welfare officials resulting in a contingent of police converging on a home.
These are challenging times we live in. That, however, doesn’t justify a wholesale assault on rights just because someone doesn’t fit in the neat little pigeonholes someone has created for the world.
It is an eroding of basic freedoms. Arguing that Homeland Security or gun control advocates should be forgiven for their excessive jealously due to the need for public safety is akin to writing the government a blank check.
The price we pay for the false sense of security either one can create is the whittling away of freedoms secured by the blood of American soldiers since the birth of the republic.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 249-3519.