Magazine article The Spectator

Television: James Walton

Magazine article The Spectator

Television: James Walton

Article excerpt

Channel 4's Kids and Guns (Thursday) began with an American TV advert in which a young boy's eyes shone with gratitude when his parents gave him a large gun, proudly marketed as 'My First Rifle'. And just in case that seemed a bit macho, the ad also pointed out that My First Rifle is available in pink.

Next, we met the real-life Gia, who at the age of nine already has quite an arsenal -- thanks to her dad Spyder, a firm believer in the old Texan motto that 'If you know how many guns you have, you don't have enough'. 'Wouldn't it be more usual to buy her Barbie dolls?' asked what couldn't help but sound like a rather prissy British off-screen voice. 'I do buy Barbie dolls,' Spyder replied, 'but we shoot them.' Any ideas that he might have been joking were then dispelled by a scene featuring a series of decapitated Barbies hanging from a fence and Gia explaining, 'I aim for the head.'

Needless to say, sneering documentaries about how nuts Americans are have been a staple of British television for decades. Yet, while this one wasn't entirely free of the raised eyebrow, it did at least spare us the curled lip. Instead, it made a creditable attempt to show us the subject from the point of view of the people involved -- who, on the whole, saw teaching children to handle guns not merely as a right, but as a sign of responsible parenting.

In fact, the more we learned, the trickier it became to view even the most gun-toting of the participants as caricatures. The sight of a girl called Kaelyn getting a huge rifle for her fourth birthday initially seemed an obvious step too far -- especially once she'd reluctantly fired it, been hit on the chin by the recoil and been terrified by the noise. But then we discovered that her father JD had lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan and was clearly trying to establish what, after a happy boyhood hunting with his own dad, he regarded as a normal family life. From there, he had several more doomed goes at interesting his daughter in heavy weaponry -- before ending the programme on a chastened note. 'I pressurised her too much, it was selfish of me,' he said. 'If she doesn't want to do it, I'm not going to make her.'

Even sadder was the story of nine-year-old Hank, killed when his gun went off accidentally after he'd been allowed to hunt rabbits on his own. …

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