As a firearms instructor and more importantly, a mom, I have a few thoughts on mixing kids and guns. The secret is that kids and guns can safely co-exist. It takes patience, trust and an open line of communication between family members. There are two main strategies that work for our family and I would like to share them with you here.
The following is an exerpt from Calling the Shots: Self-Protection and Firearm Choices that Work for You, by yours truly …
Jeff and I started the process of teaching gun safety with our kiddo when he was about four years old, as he was at a good age and more importantly, a good maturity level to understand some of this stuff and be taught about the responsibility of guns. If we had started this any earlier than this age it would not have sunk in, in my opinion. All kids are different so age four might not be right for your family, but no one knows your child better than you. So follow your gut when it comes to teaching your child about guns. We started this process slowly. One day Jeff took apart a pistol so that it was on the table in several pieces, and he brought our son into the room and showed him the different parts and taught him what each part was. Then they cleaned the parts and put the pistol back together.
The next time they cleaned a gun together they started with an assembled gun and took it apart. The reason we chose this approach was so our son knew that even though this is a gun, it’s also just a bunch of parts. It will also help when we teach him how this thing works as he’ll already know what the parts are. Now we have a helper every time we clean guns. Often when we come home from time at the range we’ll get “Hey, Mom and Dad do we have any firearms to clean?” If the answer is yes we’ll hear “I want to clean the barrel!” This is his favorite part by far to clean. He’s also gotten to the age that he will play DJ and turn on the iPod so that we have music while we clean guns. It has become quite the bonding experience!
The most important thing we can do as responsible gun owners is keep our guns secure. This means keeping them in a gun safe, and inaccessible to unauthorized persons. An unauthorized person is anyone who does not have permission to handle your gun. This can include, but is not limited to, people doing work in your home or guys from the cable company, kids and anyone else who comes into your home that you don’t want handling your firearms. This also applies outside of the home. Our responsibility to keep our guns secure does not end when we leave the house, whether the gun is on our person or being safely left behind.
Most of the time kids get into trouble with their parents’ (or other grownup’s) guns because of curiosity. If we can take the element of curiosity away we’ve done a better job. This concept is written about by Massad Ayoob in “Gun Proof Your Children”. For example, if my son ever wants to talk about guns, see a gun, or even hold a gun I will stop what I am doing and help to satisfy his curiosity by letting him see, touch or hold a gun in a safe manner. Just know that with this approach, your kids will always want to see a gun when you have approximately a million things going on. So be prepared to set everything aside and address the gun curiosity. You can pick up the million things right where you left them five minutes ago, they aren’t going anywhere. The more I can teach my son about guns and gun safety in general, the less I have to worry about him trying to learn about them on his own. I am not worried about him with our guns. That said, they are still locked up. I am more worried about the guns that he might come across outside of our home. We may not know how guns are treated in the homes of others that we may visit.
The other thing we have taught our son is the Eddie Eagle program by the NRA. Eddie Eagle teaches kids that if they come across a gun and there is no adult around that they need to:
- Don’t Touch
- Run Away
- Tell a Grown-Up
This has worked quite nicely for our family. We’ve tested this program out in a safe manner several times and so far, so good.
These days, our son, who is eight is a regular attendee of our classes, including the range classes. His reward for behaving during class is that he gets to shoot once our students leave. He gets to choose what he wants to shoot that day. Most days he wants to shoot rifle. That might be because he has recently taken to shooting a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22 (.22LR) that looks and functions just like a big boy (or girl) AR-15. He loves this gun!
And Jeff and I love that he takes shooting seriously enough to want to be safe and that he has fun doing it.
To read the entire Guns and Kids Chapter and so much more, get your very own copy of Calling the Shots: Self-Protection and Firearm Choices that Work for You!