Some parents, especially those who have zero interest in firearms, might balk at broaching the subject of firearms safety with their kids, but I would urge every parent to educate and empower their kids with gun safety knowledge, regardless of whether or not guns will ever be present in the home.
The topic of gun safety is an opportunity to confront apprehensions and fears about real-world violence while connecting parents and children through genuine conversations about responsibility and personal safety.
Basic Gun Safety Tips for Parents
While emphasized for the safety of children in the home, these tips will also keep guns and ammunition secure from intruders and unauthorized adults (who should know better). Locks, safes, and rules are just tools; true safety will always come from education and vigilant responsibility.
1. Always keep guns locked and out of reach of children.
Make it a habit to check your safe and firearms on a regular basis: When you walk by your safe, before leaving the house, when you enter the house, and when you go to bed. This might sound extreme to some, but firearms should not be neglected and ignored even if they are locked up. Always double-check to ensure your safe is closed and locked.
2. Always keep ammunition locked and out of reach of children.
Some safety advocates advise ammunition and firearms to be stored separately without making mention of the need to secure both. Ammunition should be locked and secured regardless of whether or not it is stored separately from a firearm. As with securing firearms themselves, regularly check and maintain the location and inventory of ammunition with affirmative vigilance.
3. Never leave a gun out and unattended.
Leaving a firearm unattended simply invites trouble. Theft and misuse of a firearm can only be prevented by being aware of its location and maintaining affirmative control of its access. Even at the firing range, if a person has to leave the range area (IE use the restroom), standard procedure requires notifying the range master to ensure nobody tampers or absconds with your firearm.
4. Teach your kids to never touch a gun or gun parts.
While guns may be a particular item of fascination to kids, this rule also applies to knives, medication, household chemicals, car keys, power tools, and matches. For kids to follow this rule in good faith, parents need to educate their children to remove the mystery of firearms, to understand the danger they can pose, and to empower them with real trust and responsibility.
What Should Kids Do If They Find a Gun?
Kids should be taught to immediately remove themselves from any situation where they find a gun, whether in the home, at a friend’s house, or in public. This applies to firearms and any other dangerous item (IE knives, drugs, flammables, etc.) they might chance upon in the outside world.
TELL AN ADULT.
Much like “Stop, Drop, and Roll” for fires, it is important to relay simple safety information which can be practiced and remembered. These procedures can be practiced in a variety of ways using a designated dummy gun, dummy knives, fake matches, and other items to represent dangerous household objects.
Educating Kids About Gun Safety
Whether through curiosity and fascination, a desire emulate figures in the media, or simply because of the forbidden fruit factor, children will have an inherent fascination with weapons, and this includes firearms, knives, blunt instruments, and incendiary objects such as matches and lighters.
Children should be taught that the characters and scenarios shown on TV and movies are entirely make-believe. It should be made clear that the characters and conflict they witness are not real while any violence or use of firearms is staged and regulated by people who are merely pretending.
Kids may do stupid things, but kids are not stupid. Even young children can readily understand the critical differences between real life and pretend, and it does not require shock or scare-tactics to cement this message into an impressionable mind.
As this fascination rarely expires simply with age, it is important to foster the wisdom to know when it is and when it isn’t safe to emulate behaviors they witness on a screen.
By educating kids about the consequences and dangers of mishandling firearms, a child can be taught the same boundaries and self-regulation that prevents them from stealing the car keys, playing with the stove, or ingesting household chemicals and medications.
Practicing Gun Safety with Kids
Walking kids through gun safety procedures will help them learn and remember fundamental safety principles which will protect them from accident and mishap throughout their childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
While many parents may never own or allow a gun in their household, it is important for kids to understand the “What” and “How” of gun safety in case they ever come across a firearm at a friend’s house or in public. They should understand the seriousness of any scenario where a firearm is present.
Even if a child never encounters a real firearm, gun safety principles apply directly to pellet & paintball guns, archery equipment, darts, or when playing with toy guns outside of the house.
Many of these principles can be practiced using inert training weapons to effectively communicate fundamental safety principles in case a kid encounters a firearm at someone else’s home or in the outside world.
When practicing gun safety principles with kids, avoid using a toy. Draw a clear line between toys and real guns using an inert rubber training gun. Treat any training aid, inert or real, with the same respect a real gun would require.
If treated as a rite of passage, family exercises in gun safety create an opportunity to observe how readily kids react to a serious scenario, understand what questions they might have about violence in the real world, and it allows parents to show that they care and respect them as worthy of adult wisdom and responsibility.
Foster Maturity and Responsibility
Children are naturally curious and eager, and as they get older, they can also become intentionally enigmatic, willful, or even rebellious; this is especially true when the quest for status, acceptance, and peer pressure can overwhelm even the most intelligent and well-meaning child
While the need to test and push boundaries are a normal part of child development, it is dangerous to believe that children won’t be mischievous, scheming, or even outright malicious and cruel to others (peers, especially).
And while it may be relatively straightforward to bar firearm and ammunition access from an infant or toddler with rules, locks, and safes, the effectiveness of these tools can change drastically as children become adolescents and young adults.
Knowing this, how can parents ensure their children will exercise better judgement when presented with the choice and opportunity to act otherwise?
In an age when everyone’s attention is dominated by their schedules, screens, education studies, and careers, there is no adequate substitute for spending time with their children to understand their ever-evolving emotional needs and capabilities.
Emotional maturity, the ability to cope with failure and rejection, and self-control under peer pressure plays a large part in making sure a child doesn’t frivolously or maliciously defy gun safety taught by their parents.
If a child shows signs of clinical depression, delinquency, or malicious rebellion, storing firearms outside the home might be the most prudent option until these issues are addressed.
While this might seem abstract or esoteric, any parent would be hard-pressed to deny the importance of maturity as it relates to gun safety, substance abuse, driving a car, and other life decisions which require maturity and responsibility to make safe and responsible choices.
Keeping Guns Out of the Wrong Hands
“It’s a gun owner’s most important responsibility to keep their firearms from falling into the wrong hands — and that includes children.” – Bill Brassard, director of Project ChildSafe.
When purchasing a firearm, a person should commit to providing secure storage while keeping their firearms out of reach and out of sight from anyone who might handle it in an uninformed, unsafe, or outright malicious manner.
There are many options to secure a firearm from children and intruders while providing quick access to authorized persons in case a firearm is needed to protect home and family. These options go far beyond simple trigger or barrel locks which do not prevent a firearm from being carried away by intruders or precocious children.
Regardless of the type of safe or locking mechanism employed, the safest practice is to vigilantly check and inventory one’s firearm and ammunition as part of any routine safety check around the house (IE checking smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, door locks).
If a person can’t keep a firearm secured and safe from their children, then don’t expect that person to keep anything secured from children: Alcohol, prescription drugs, car keys, knives, matches, and toxic chemicals & cleansers.
Again, locks, safes, and rules are important tools, but nothing can replace vigilant responsibility and a taking an active role toward educating children about proper gun safety.
Cold Steel Rubber Training Pistol ($16): Realistic inert trainer under $40-60 (from Amazon).