Firearms Museum Focuses On Gun Safety, History And Culture The Cody Firearms Museum in northwest Wyoming just got a makeover. It's moved away from being a monument to guns and toward being an educational space.
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Firearms Museum Focuses On Gun Safety, History And Culture

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Firearms Museum Focuses On Gun Safety, History And Culture

Firearms Museum Focuses On Gun Safety, History And Culture

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Wyoming is one of the largest gun collections in the world. The Cody Firearms Museum just got a makeover. It's moved away from being a monument to guns and toward being an educational space on gun safety, history and culture. Wyoming Public Radio's Kamila Kudelska takes us on a tour.

KAMILA KUDELSKA, BYLINE: The Cody Firearms Museum is located at the Buffalo Bills Center of the West alongside four other museums and near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. So often, people just happen upon the firearms museum. That was the case for Kim Cato and her family visiting from Idaho.

KIM CATO: We were not planning to go in here.

KUDELSKA: Kim says that's because of her own previous experience with the museum.

KIM CATO: I was here as a child. And my dad dragged me through. And it was just rows and rows of guns. And it was just not exciting.

KUDELSKA: But now, the recently renovated museum seemed more intriguing. So Kim and her husband Kevin, their 12-year-old son Tyson and 15-year-old daughter Jillian take a tour with Ashley Hlebinsky, the curator.

ASHLEY HLEBINSKY: So we're going to start right here. A lot of times when you talk about firearms history, you think about the history of technology. But it is also a history of people. And with that history of people, it can be good, bad and indifferent.

KUDELSKA: In an effort to address the good, the bad and the indifferent, the first gallery is focused on basic firearm safety, especially where kids are involved.

HLEBINSKY: And then we walk up to an interactive table. And the first thing you see is, do you know what to do if they're kind of out in the real world, and they encounter a firearm?

KUDELSKA: A set of rules are mounted at a height designed to be read by children. They include stop, don't touch the firearm, get an adult or a law enforcement officer. Kim finds this really helpful.

KIM CATO: We had an experience where a child climbed over the fence and handed my son a gun and - didn't you try to shoot it?

TYSON CATO: No. I didn't even touch it.

KIM CATO: What?

KUDELSKA: Some of the details are murky. Nothing bad happened. But it was scary for the family.

KIM CATO: Tyson, are you aware of these rules now?

TYSON: Yes.

KUDELSKA: This is the kind of conversation the museum is trying to foster. Next, Hlebinsky takes the Catos to the "Cost Of War" exhibit.

HLEBINSKY: And as we're walking into this gallery, really, the first thing you kind of encounter is this big graphic. And some of the scenes that you see - you see the gravestones at Arlington Cemetery, as well as some children affected by war.

KUDELSKA: They also hear about Audie Murphy. He's the World War II veteran and actor who broke a taboo of the time by talking about his experience with what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder. And the family learns, during the Civil War, some arms were produced by enslaved peoples. And finally, the Catos stand in front of a big, black-and-white mural. It was produced by the artist known as JR in partnership with Time Magazine. Fifteen-year-old Jillian Cato gives her take.

JILLIAN CATO: It's a big group of people. Many of them have signs. It seems to be a debate, a huge debate. One side is anti-gun, and the other side is pro-gun rights.

KUDELSKA: As the family looks at the mural, the father Kevin says they aren't really gun enthusiasts.

KEVIN CATO: I'm not into killing anything. And, you know, there's no reason to have a gun, I guess, if you're not going to try to kill something. I have really enjoyed, though, and look forward to doing a little more research into the history of the guns and how they affect warfare.

KUDELSKA: That's the goal of the new Cody Firearms Museum, not to win people over but to help them learn and think about gun culture. For NPR News, I'm Kamila Kudelska in Cody, Wyo.

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