We get a lot of questions from people about the proper way to keep firearms in homes with young children and how/what to teach kids about firearm safety. If you didn’t see Sara’s Facebook Live video on this topic, scroll to the bottom of this page and check that out when you get a chance. In the meantime, here are some of the basics regarding kids and firearm safety.
Controlling access to your firearms is always important, even if there are no children in the home. Only authorized persons should know how to access any of your firearms and ammunition and extreme care should be taken to prevent any unauthorized person from gaining access. Only you can determine who is unauthorized but consider visiting friends and/or family members, anyone with mental illness, and of course, young children.
There are many different ways to control access, ranging from small lock-boxes to modern bedside fingerprint safes all the way up to full size safes and vaults. Unless a firearm is designated (and properly secured) for quick emergency access, all ammunition should be stored separately.
Kids need to know that guns are tools that can be very dangerous and even deadly when used improperly. They need to know what to do if they ever come across a firearm. We like the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Program that uses animal characters to teach kids about how to handle these situations using the phrases: Stop, Don’t Touch, Run Away, and Tell A Grownup.
As children mature they may want to know more and/or may begin learning to shoot along with other members of the family. Firearm safety MUST be the top priority. Make sure all of the safety rules are understood and practiced all the time. Set a good example and let them know that you are available to answer any questions.
Media vs. Reality
Movies, TV shows and video games play a major role in the lives of our children these days and we can’t always be certain that the messages being delivered are consistent with our values and firearm safety priorities. It is important for you to understand the impact that these sources have on kids and take the time to talk with them about the difference between fiction and reality. For example, a young kid that sees his video game character pop back to life over and over after being shot in the game may eventually disassociate firearms and death.
Additionally, Hollywood is very good at making entertaining movie scenes, but usually fails at portraying good firearm safety and fundamentals. Make sure that your children know that using a firearm is serious and potentially deadly business that requires an attention to detail that is often ignored on the big screen.
Many parents wonder what age is right to begin educating their kids about firearms. Every child is different and the parent will know best when the time is right. If your kids are asking questions or spend regular time with gun related video games then you should be proactive and start the education process. If you are not a “gun person” or are otherwise intimidated by the topic, please take a look at the NRA Eddie Eagle program and/or talk with a qualified NRA Instructor about how you can get some help. Most gun owners are more than willing to help, especially with regards to safety issues, so check with friends and family who may be willing to help as well.