Child_Gun_SafetyAs most of you know, gun ownership increased dramatically this past year. Many of these new gun owners are facing a challenging array of dilemmas: to carry or not, how to carry, where to keep the gun at home, what type of ammo to use, what to tell family members, what about the children? Of all the issues new gun owners face, correctly addressing gun safety with their children is without a doubt the most important (carrying coming in a close second). Some parents take the approach of simply hiding and/or locking up the firearms. Some tell the children never to touch it. Some teach their children safe ways to use the firearms. The same parents may use all three approaches depending on the age of the children. While methods are debatable, one thing is clear. There are far too many tragic stories of children killing or being killed with their parents’ firearm to simply ignore the issue. And while you may successfully hide your firearms from your children, not everybody is as successful and your child may discover a firearm at a friend’s house.  As common as firearms are and as little accurate information children receive from society, it is vital you, the parent, teach your children gun safety.

childgun_lgMany parents seem to believe their children are too young to learn about guns. However, modern media does not share that concern. A child will easily learn dangerous firearm handling habits from movies, video games and cartoons. Left with TV for their only guide, children will automatically pick up a firearm, put their finger on the trigger and point it at somebody. Why? That is the behavior of every TV character with a gun. It is up to parents and other concerned adults to correct such perilous impressions. Many times this correction can be done through repetition of key words and practice. Similar to “Stop, Drop, and Roll,” gun safety rules may be taught to very young children. (I personally have seen parents begin gun safety instruction when their son was but three years old.) The nationally renowned NRA’s Eddie Eagle program is directed at pre-K through 3rd grade students. This program teaches children four simple rules.

If you see a gun:
STOP!
Don’t Touch.
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.

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While this method works well for the majority of children, I realize there are children that insist on learning things the hard way and will automatically reach for whatever you tell them “don’t touch.” For these children some extra steps may need to be taken to impress upon them the severity of the consequences of mishandling a firearm. A trip to an indoor range, exposing the child to noise and recoil, may be enough to convince some. I’ve heard of other parents, with the intention of demonstrating the destruction a bullet traveling at high speeds will cause, shooting watermelons or some other such object. Children raised on the farm typically learn this lesson watching an animal being put out of its misery, slaughtered for meat or killed to protect livestock. In some cases, simply allowing the child to handle the unloaded firearm under direct, constant supervision is enough to satisfy their curiosity.

learning-to-shoot-300x199In the case of the 3-year-old mentioned above, he was shown a firearm, informed of the basics of firearms, warned of the danger, strongly cautioned (nearly threatened) to never touch one unsupervised (and never to let his younger sister touch one), and promised to be taught all about it once he is older. This satisfied his curiosity and from there on he has been content to play with his Nerf gun (and has even gone so far as to carry it on his hip, inside his waistband). His parents are careful to answer any questions very matter-of-factly, without any sense of secrets or hiding. This approach, combined with adults being careful to keep all firearms inaccessible, has eliminated much of the fear associated with kids and guns. We gun-owning adults are careful but we are also confident this child would know what to do if he ever came upon a firearm unattended. I believe this honest, forthright method (and other similar methods) restores firearms to the “trusty tool” label of the past and strip off the “evil weapon” label of today. Removing the “evil” label also removes much of the curiosity from young minds. It becomes simply another tool, like a chainsaw, that they will learn to use as they get older instead of a sinister object of terror that makes grown men afraid (as the schools and media would have them believe).

nssf-dad-kidsAs a single woman, I have not yet had to traverse these murky waters myself but I have studiously observed others navigate their way to safety. That observation, coupled with common sense, says the best way to keep children safe around guns is to teach them about guns. Ignoring and pretending firearms don’t exist will only feed curiosity. Depending on always locking them up is also flawed, because we are flawed. We are humans and humans make mistakes. Teaching a child to avoid a firearm is similar to backing up the computer. You backup your files just in case your hard-drive crashes, why not train your child just in case you forget one time. I’m sure many of you have faced this issue before. Please share your stories, as well as advice and tips in the comments.

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Comments
  1. MamaLiberty says:

    Excellent, Autrey! Both of my sons were present when we were shooting, for one reason or another, from a very early age. They were taught about gun safety and how to shoot early, and both had their own bolt action .22 rifles by the age of 12 or so. We had zero “accidents.”

    The key, as far as I’m concerned, is that children learn respect for other people and their property in general, as well as for the gun and it’s power to destroy things. Learning about personal responsibility, having to deal realistically with the consequences of their actions and choices from an early age, is an essential part of that education. Far, far too many children are never taught that, so “gun safety” is much more difficult to teach them effectively. They don’t have the basic foundation required to understand it. And no, the TV and movies do nothing to help this.

  2. Tommy Harper says:

    Ruth, thanks!!! I will refer my NRAFS students to this blog. Great info!!!

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