For Utah Family, Guns Are a Revered Family Tradition

PHOTO: Four-year-old Gage Butler aiming his .22-caliber rifle. The Butlers have been shooting guns for generations.
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Four-year-old Gage Butler needs a little help from dad to aim his .22-caliber rifle.

Gage's older sister, Brailee, who is now 8 years old, said she got her pink rifle as a 4th birthday present.

ABC News' Juju Chang with the Butlers. Credit: ABC News

"[Guns are] for protecting us and they're for hunting," she said.

Their father, Casey Butler, is a life-long hunter, passing down a revered family tradition. His rugged outdoor escapades have made him a hit on YouTube, showing him ice fishing in Idaho or bear hunting with a bow and arrow in the back woods, but mostly hunting game with high-caliber rifles.

"We want people to know that we're just regular people," said Casey Butler's wife, Kayli Butler. "We're not shooting everything and pulling our guns out and playing with guns all the time. We are very responsible and respectful of guns."

As both kids suited up for an afternoon shoot with their parents near their home in Tremonton, Utah, at which they were using soda cans for target practice, Braliee explained why she liked to shoot guns.

"I like to go hunting with my dad because I like shooting my gun and I like the memories," she said. "And I like to smell the fresh air and go outside."

Both parents defended their decision to own guns and teach their kids how to shoot.

"Some children shouldn't be shooting guns. Some adults shouldn't be shooting guns. Some politicians shouldn't be politicians," he said. "But the thing is I've always taught my kids, and I will always teach them, is responsibility."

The Butlers do not let their children play violent shoot-'em-up video games where a human is the target.

"Because people grow up thinking then that's OK, and then they grow up and think that they should kill people," Braliee said.

"When I see a kid playing a videogame on the Internet and they're looking through a scope at a person standing there, that creeps me out," Casey Butler said. "But to sit here on the back of my truck and shoot a .22 with my kids at some cans, we're just having fun, being constructive, enjoying each other's company."

The family has at least 12 guns in the house, which they keep unloaded in a glass case under lock and key. Casey Butler keeps the ammunition locked in a safe, out of reach.

"I'm not worried about my kids getting into the guns because they know and I have taught them that you're not supposed to be around a gun. Unless what?" Casey Butler asked, turning to his daughter.

"Unless parent supervision," Braliee replied.

Kayli Butler said she wasn't nervous about having guns in the house because she has been around them her whole life and is well-versed in gun safety.

"I grew up in my parents' [home] having guns. I grew up with my grandparents having guns and my friends' parents having guns," she said. "We learned it from a young, young age, just like we have taught our children."

Mounted deer, elk, antelope and other game heads lined the walls of the Butler house, but they weren't just trophies to the Butlers. Casey Butler skins the animals himself and, in this family, guns put food on the table.

Casey Butler said one antelope will provide the family with three or four months worth of meat.

"The most important part of hunting is preserving that meat, because that's why we do this -- so we can feed our families," he said.

But it's hard not to reflect on the recent tragedy in Connecticut, where, police said, Adam Lanza, 20, brought three firearms into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 people, including 20 children, before turning the gun on himself.

The shooter's mother, Nancy Lanza, owned legal guns and had gone shooting at a range with Adam Lanza, federal sources said.

Casey Butler said he also takes his kids to shooting ranges, but he believes their situation is different than what it might have been for the Lanzas.

"Me taking my 4-year-old or my 8-year-old out to shoot a gun, I know they're responsible enough to do that," he said. "I know their mental health."

If there is something wrong or questionable about a child's mental health, Casey Butler said, the last thing they need to be doing is learning how to shoot or be around guns.

"If I felt my daughter was crazy and I needed to take her to an institution, it would break my heart, it would be tough to do," he said. "But, at the same time, I would do it for her benefit. I would do it for my benefit. I would do it for everyone's benefit. I wouldn't take her out shooting guns."

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