Civil War, Guns and Education

Recent tragic events in Arkansas have fanned the flames of anti-gun sentiment throughout America. At the risk of being topical, I want to discuss how gun opponents work, and what reenactors and skirmishers can and should do to combat bad gun press.

Every violent crime in America is not committed with a gun, but by a violent person. If they can't get a gun, they will use a lead pipe or whatever they can get their hands on. The only way to reduce violent crime is not to affect gun ownership, but to reduce the number of violent people in our society. However, there are members of our society who blame guns for everything, and will stop at nothing to eliminate private gun ownership in America. Before we saw victims families on our TV's, we saw leaders of the anti-gun crowd screaming for more gun control. Like scurrilous ambulance- chasers, these denizens of gun denial flock to tragedy to quickly blame guns, then fade away until the next unfortunate sad event and reappear with the same monotonic message - ban guns, ban guns, ban guns.

As sensible gun owners, we, as reenactors and skirmishers, must exercise safety in our events first, and then spread the gospel of safe gun usage and ownership throughout the land to counteract the propaganda of gun control fanatics like Ted Kennedy. And the way to spread the word is the same way that liberals pushed recycling throughout our culture in the 80's -- through the educational system.

Ten years ago, I could call any local school and offer the services of our unit to perform a living history demonstration. We would set up a little Civil War camp, serve some authentic Civil War food and demonstrate loading to the nines, complete with blank firing! Kids loved it. I have pounds of letters from kids who were turned on to history by one of our little shows. At the same time, we were able to show kids that guns, when handled properly, are safe tools. Gradually, these opportunities for interaction with kids have dried up as more and more schools completely forbid the presence of any weapon on school grounds. What message does this send to kids? I remember one year we took our little four- pounder scale piece to a private school, and trained the fifth grade to crew the piece, then let them pull one off! The kids loved it; we loved it, too. You could see the delight in these kids faces as they learned how the crew worked as a team, fighting together as a unit. Alas, even that institution has cut back on exposing the kids to "guns."

So, what do we do to combat this? Well, we gotta get in the school system and fight for the hearts and minds of the future. If we let kids see that guns are safe and interesting and fun without being fatal; if we expose kids to safe and responsible gun ownership while enriching their educational experience, particularly in history and social studies, then we can win this thing over the vultures that hang around genuine tragedy and promote their ingenuine agenda.

You won't be able to get your musket in the schoolhouse door right away, however, you can sure get your carcass in there A.S.A.P. Call up your kid's school and volunteer to come in your uniform and talk about the Civil War. Wear that holster without the Colt to show of your accoutrement. Take extra stuff, or borrow some from team mates, and let the Kids put the stuff on. Let them touch history. Be known as "The Civil War G(uy/al)". Yes ladies, you can go, too. You might want to show off hoop skirts and bonnets, that's just as cool and just as much a part of the history as guns, but think of the value that will be placed on sensible gun ownership when one of our fine lady skirmishers says, "I won this medal for marksmanship with my Civil War weapon."

You can show equipment, you can show off your books (maybe leave them for a week for the kids to peruse), you can teach them kid's games from the Civil War, you can make hardtack and let them eat it (that 'ill keep 'em quiet for a while).

You can help the teacher. Offer to help the teacher create a Civil War Learning Center, where kids do worksheets about Civil War songs, stories, dates, etc. I'll help. On our website, http//, I'm going to post some ideas you can download from home or your local library (or even your school library!) to get you started. If you want to offer your services to a local school, post a message on our bulletin board saying where you live and how far you will go from home to volunteer. If you are a teacher who wants a volunteer to enrich your Civil War instruction, you can post a message on our bulletin board too, and we can start to match users and providers up. If you have a Civil War lesson plan, assessment or presentation that you want to share with our readers who would love to volunteer but don't think they have good ideas, then e-mail it too me at and I will post in our educational section as quick as I can code it up. In very short order, I hope to have a basic on-line library we can use as a "primer" for educational volunteering.

If we, as responsible and safe gun users and owners, can get out in the public and demonstrate good citizenship and model appropriate behavior with weapons, then we can turn the tide in the face of these insidious morons who use every brush with tragedy as a tool to advance their anti-gun agenda. Failure to do so may result in the greatest tragedy of all.

The skirmish season has started well. We are headed for another "record setting" National Skirmish. Until the next time, promote responsible gun ownership, shoot safe and have fun.

1998 by Tom Kelley

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