Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Gun Safety for Kids, 1868

Gun Safety for Kids, 1868

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 04, 2013

Here’s another article for our “you’ll never see it in The Friend” file. Published in the 15 July 1868 issue of the Juvenile Instructor, and probably written by George Q. Cannon himself, the article gives reasonable advice, a graphic illustration, and a lurid tale of what could happen when firearms were mishandled.

Playing with Fire-Arms

The first thought that strikes one in looking at the engraving we give below, is that the pretty little girl, who stands on tiptoe watching her brother, is in great peril. You perceive that the muzzle of the pistol is pointed at her head. It makes us shudder to think of the danger she is in; yet she does not seem to be aware of it. If her brother had his hand on the lock, we would be still more afraid, but he has hold of the stock, and appears to be examining the lock.



After he has looked at it a while he may take hold of it. If he should, and the pistol should be loaded, then he or his sister might get shot; for he is too small a boy to know much about fire-arms. You see he is but a little boy, he has to stand upon a stool to reach the drawer in which his father keeps his pistols.

It seems they have got tired of playing with the toys their parents have given them. There is a “Noah’s ark,” and a number of the animals with which it was filled, lying on the floor. On the corner of the table is a figure of “Punch.” Poor “Punch” is thrown aside for something more attractive.

Their parents could not have left the pistols for them to play with. They are not proper playthings for children. This little boy and girls must have thought about the pistols being in the drawer and gone to it themselves. Do you think they are doing right in playing with these pistols?

Children should never touch fire-arms of any kind. Many serious and dreadful accidents have happened through the careless handling of pistols and guns. We read, not long ago, of a boy who shot his little sister, also of a man who shot his wife. They are in fun, and did not think of killing them. They probably thought the guns which they pointed at them were not loaded.

We recollect reading, when we were a boy, of a young man accidentally shooting a young lady who was to have been married to him. He had been out hunt in, and before entering the house he had fired off both barrels of his shot-gun, and placed it in his room. His servant came into the room shortly afterwards, and took the gun and loaded it to shoot some rats in the stable. He did not see any, so he brought it back loaded, and placed it where he found it. His master returned to the room, and was soon joined by the young lady. In a playful mood he picked up his gun, cocked it, pointed it at her and pulled the trigger. To his great horror the gun went off, and his intended wife, whom he loved so dearly, and for whom he would readily have died, fell at his feet covered with blood. He had killed her! This dreadful occurrence saddened and embittered his whole after life.

No person should ever point a weapon at another, even if they know that it is unloaded. It is not a safe practice. We narrowly escaped being shot by our own rifle when coming to the valley in1847, though there was no cap on the gun at the time. Some pistols are what are called self-cockers; that is, they can be fired off by merely pulling the trigger. Such weapons must be handled carefully even by men who are in the habit of using pistols; but they would be most dangerous in the hands of a child even for a second.

We trust the little folks in the engraving met with no accident, and we are sure that when their parents returned they told them what risks they ran, and warned them against doing so again.



  1. You’re just trying to cause trouble now. Everybody knows we don’t have “servants” anymore. And that pistol looks like the one Aaron Burr used to take out Alexander Hamilton. Too bad, he might have set us on a better fiscal track and we never would have had the sequester. (Aren’t I a naughty one!)

    Comment by Grant — March 4, 2013 @ 7:29 am

  2. Two thoughts:

    First, Noah’s Arks were common toys when I was a child, but I haven’t seen one for years.

    And second, interesting use of the editorial “we”: “We narrowly escaped being shot by our own rifle…” The website Apartment Therapy uses that convention, and it can be amusing from time to time.

    Comment by Amy T — March 4, 2013 @ 7:39 am

  3. Yes, we are a naughty boy, Grant (as in, as Amy notes, the awkward construction of “when we were a boy”).

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 4, 2013 @ 7:44 am

  4. The royal “We” makes this hard to read!

    We recollect reading, when we were a boy…We narrowly escaped being shot by our own rifle”

    I agree that this likely would not be in today’s “Friend”.

    Comment by HokieKate — March 4, 2013 @ 7:50 am

  5. We also wonder what our young lady was doing in our young gentleman’s room as they were “in a playful mood” before they were to marry?

    Comment by Grant — March 4, 2013 @ 8:56 am

  6. I feel like this is a diversion, but I will say that Fisher Price sells a very nice Noah’s Ark, of which my children have one.

    Comment by SilverRain — March 4, 2013 @ 9:02 am

  7. Diversion? That’s far more suitable to a Mormon history blog than the article on guns, SR!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 4, 2013 @ 9:45 am

  8. How quaint.

    Comment by Amy — March 4, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

  9. #5 FTW

    Comment by The Other Clark — March 5, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

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