The New Zealand Defence Force is conducting a rather unique campaign: They are taking their war materiel – including select-fire assault rifles – to primary schools in New Zealand, to teach kids about leadership, values, army life, and – of course – weapons. As reported by Manawatu Standard News:
“Have the support into your shoulder… When you are ready to fire, take it off safety, and when you get the OK to fire, pull the trigger and then you’re right,” lance corporal Melissa Trail showed the children.
The army also spoke about leadership and leaders, such as former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Victoria Cross winner Willie Apiata.
Top tips for being a leader were honesty, delegation, good communication, confidence, commitment and humour, major Tim Woodhouse told the children.
Corporal Israel McNicholl said it was good to show a glimpse of “army life” interactively.
“The kids just love the guns, you know what kids are like… but they are not toys.
“Most of the children’s questions were about the kit, not what the higher ideas are.”
Eleven-year-old Kane O’Hara said the seminar was “really fun”.
“It’ll just be something that’s imprinted on your brain.”
He had never held a gun before and said “it felt amazing and cool”.
The children are shown holding NZDF versions of the Australian-made F88, itself a variant of the Steyr AUG. They were taught assembly and disassembly of the weapons, in addition to proper firing technique. The F88 is being replaced in NZDF service by the new LMT MARS AR-15-derived assault rifle, as of late summer 2015.
Mixing children and firearms is bound to be controversial in the modern urbanized world, but there is a paradoxical beneficial upshot to programs like this: Young children develop a better sense of respect not only for firearms, but also for the wider world around them. Many things in life are dangerous, and teaching kids to respect and awareness of even some of those things provides a great lesson that pays dividends later on. A child who knows how to respect a firearm will likely more readily respect the responsibility of driving an automobile, for example, and better understand the potential consequences of an accident in either case.