Deflate The Mystery Bubble Surrounding Guns: Kids are curious by nature. I know, I have four of them constantly peppering me with life’s most basic, intriguing and often times intrusive questions. It’s only natural for kids to be inquisitive about firearms, too.
The knee jerk reaction from some gun owners is to hide their firearms away under lock and key, in a cloak of secrecy, forbidding their kids from seeing or talking about them and by doing so they somehow think they are protecting them. Firearms are powerful tools that need to be respected and yes, they should always be stored in a safe and secure location. However, guns and gun ownership are not taboo, you don’t need to hide them, apologize for them, or make them a mystery in your home. Instead, pull back the curtain and demystify firearms - under your supervision let your kids look at them, touch them, hold them, talk about them, and ask questions. If there is no mystery surrounding them, chances are kids won’t feel the need to secretly explore them on their own.
Educate: There is no such thing as talking about gun safety too much. How many times do you have to remind your kids to pick up their laundry, put away their toys or shut off the lights? See my point, they can most certainly use the regular reminders. I talk to my kids about firearm safety almost daily. Keep it brief and to the point. The attention span of a child is about like mine, very limited, so a short review every day is far more effective than an hour-long lecture once in a while.
- Treat every firearm like it’s loaded.
This is the golden rule of firearm safety in my opinion. Accidents are far less likely to happen if you assume that every gun is loaded. Whenever you pick up a gun, hand a gun to someone else or have someone hand a gun to you the first thing you should do is check for yourself that it is unloaded. Point the muzzle in a safe direction. Open the action. Check the chamber, receiver and magazine.
Learning how to clear a firearm is an essential safety and handling skill that all kids need to learn.
- Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.
Don’t point your gun at something if you don’t plan on shooting it. While the concept in itself is simple, this will be something that kids really have to focus on for a while before it becomes second nature. A wandering muzzle is a dangerous one. You have to be completely in control when handling a firearm - not just in the field, but also when loading and unloading a firearm, too. In the event of an accidental discharge, having the firearm pointed in a safe direction can help avoid a disaster.
- Keep your finger off the trigger and completely out of the trigger guard until you are 100% ready to shoot.
This might seem like a no-brainer for adults who are accustomed to handling firearms regularly, but when it comes to teaching kids, assume nothing! Don’t assume that they understand this concept. Remind them frequently to keep their fingers off of and away from the trigger. Break them of a habit before it starts and teach them how to properly hold a firearm, where to put their fingers, and to always keep their fingers away from the trigger until they are ready to shoot.
- Know what is in front of, around and behind your target before you shoot.
Positively identifying the intended target is paramount. Don’t shoot at shadows, movement, noise or obscurities. Explain to kids that they need to confirm with absolute certainty what they are aiming at before shooting. In addition, explain to them why they need to think about what is in front of, behind and around a target. Kids need to understand that there are no do-overs or take backs. Once that bullet leaves the firearm there is no altering its course or putting it back, so taking the time to identify the target and potential hazards surrounding it is crucial.
- Don’t abuse the “safety”.
The “safety” on your firearm is in the “on” position so you can put your finger through the trigger guard or on the trigger, or even pull the trigger, right? WRONG!!
Kids need to be aware that the safety on a firearm is not a reason to throw caution to the wind. The safety on a firearm is just that, a safety mechanism that works in conjunction with safe handling practices. A firearm’s safety can fail or you can mistakenly click it off when you think you are clicking it on. In both cases, careless handling can result in an accident when you rely entirely on a firearm’s safety. Don’t let the “safety” give kids a false sense of security, demand that they always handle firearms in a safe and responsible way. Fingers should never be on the trigger unless you are ready to shoot.
Secure, Set Boundaries & Instill Respect:
As a firearm owner, the onus is on you to make sure that all guns in your home are secured. I have a Cabela’s Gun Safe where all of my firearms go when they are not on my person. While it’s tempting to drop your keys, wallet, phone and everyday carry pistol on the counter when you get home, or to put your hunting rifle or shotgun in a closet or corner after a long hunt, it’s imperative that you take the time to secure them immediately. In addition, it’s also important to set boundaries with your kids regarding those firearms.
- Never touch guns when you are not present.
- Never open the gun cabinet unsupervised.
- Never show firearms to their friends or visitors.
I very much believe that gun educated kids are kids that will be far less likely to have a firearm related accident. If I didn’t believe that firearms were safe, I’d never allow my kids to be around them. Part of educating kids is explaining and showing them what guns are capable of. Shoot a 1-gallon water jug to illustrate the effect a bullet has on a target. They don’t need to fear guns, but they need to respect them. They also need to respect your rules and follow them no matter what. It’s hands-off unless an adult is present. Securing your firearms and instilling respect in your kids is an important facet of gun safety.
Finally, don’t let kids learn about firearms from the movies, don’t let them be influenced by all the anti-gun messaging in every news cycle today. Instead, be proactive in your approach. Talk to your kids about firearms, let them ask questions, let them hold your firearms, preach safety at every opportunity, teach them how to shoot, explain to them why guns are not something to be feared, but rather something to be respected. Kids are smart and capable, give them a chance. Gun educated kids are safer kids.
Educate and shoot straight,