Not originally published in LIFE. Gun safety instruction, Indiana, 1956
As LIFE put it in “Drawing a Bead on Safety,” all those years ago (citing a statistic that is still appalling today):
In 1954 more than 550 U.S. children under 15 were killed in accidents involving the careless handling of firearms, five of them in lake County, Indiana. [In 2010, 606 people were killed by “accidental discharge of firearms,” according to the CDC. — Ed.] This situation shocked Indiana Conservation Officer Rod Rankin, who decided to offer a course in gun safety to any interested child in the county. In the past year 2,500 children from 6 years on, with the approval of their parents, have taken him up on it.
Rankin stresses two things: never point as gun at anybody, even in play, and always check immediately to see if the gun is loaded … Rankin is glad to answer routine questions such as “How fast and far does a bullet go?” but tries to discourage ones like “Have you ever shot anyone?” and “If you shoot a man in the head how long does it take him to die?”
Some people think Rankin is starting the kids on firearms too young. But the National Rifle Association points out that four states now permit gun safety courses in grade school and says, “The earlier a kid learns to respect a gun and what not to do with it the better chance natural curiosity won’t get him in trouble.”