Kids and Guns
As a firearm instructor, you might not believe how many times I hear from someone that they would like to own a gun, but their spouse will not allow it because they have kids in the house. On a grand scale, I understand and agree with the REASONING behind this feeling. It’s a parent’s job to keep their children safe, and no one wants to bring something into the home that is dangerous to their child.
However, while I agree with wanting to keep children safe from harm, I must disagree with the blanket thought that guns in the home are by themselves inherently dangerous. With proper education, storage, and supervision, firearms are no more dangerous than any other tool. I am not in the habit of making broad demands on how others should act. Generally, I teach options and tell the reasons for using each of those options. I can tell you how I deal with this issue of guns in my home with my child and hopefully give prospective to other parents who question guns in the home.
When I was growing up, my parents were not anti-gun, but they were anti-me-having-a-gun. There were guns in my home. My dad was a law enforcement officer and as such always had at least one handgun in the home. My father subscribed to the “old school” policy on kids and guns. Dad said, “Boy, I’ve got a gun in that closet, and if I ever catch you playing with it, you’ll wish you hadn’t”. Well, being the bright child I was, I figured that meant as long as I applied my gun handling skills I learned on TV to keep me from accidentally firing the gun, and I put it back EXACTLY as I found it, I could pose in the mirror in my gunfighter stance whenever I was alone in the house. Luckily I never fired the pistol into the mirror or myself. As I got older, dad did take me out shooting once or twice. We even went hunting once, but they never let me have my own gun so I always had that curiosity.
I imagine that even if there were no guns in my home and if my parents forbid me to even mention guns, I would find someone to let me see one (It happened just like that with a motorcycle, but since mom still doesn’t know about that, we won’t get into details…). The above two examples are the first two of the three most common attitudes parents that I have spoke with have toward children and guns. I subscribe to the third.
In my house we have a smart and independent 7 year old girl. She thinks for herself and is not afraid to abandon what she has been told, if she thinks she knows better. What I have to do first is keep her from being able to access the firearms if she chooses to disregard my gun rules, This is not foolproof. Kids have an uncanny ability to find what they are looking for. I am sure at some point in her life she will find the gun safe keys.
For the second step, we have taught her the NRA’s Eddie Eagle gun safe rules. This strategy was to teach the child what to do if they find a gun. The rules are simple and effective. Eddie Eagle says if the child sees a gun they should: stop, don’t touch, leave the area, and tell an adult. These rules are particularly important, as over 50% of American households have firearms. If she is visiting a friend’s house, we do not want her to try to tell another child not to play with a gun, as that might cause that child to point the gun at our child in order to tease her. We want her safely away from any unsecured gun, not to act like she is in charge of it.
The last thing we do is take away her curiosity. My wife and I took her to the range, and she watched her momma shoot a pistol. I sat with our child and explained to her about guns and answered all her questions. This did not work too well because even with hearing protection, my child thought the handguns were too loud. She did not want to be around them. We then got her a BB rifle. We let her shoot it when she asks to, but she doesn’t really like it very much. Furthermore we don’t force her, but she knows if she wants to shoot, she can as long as she asks and her mother or I take her.
This works well for us. We keep the guns in a locked safe and the ammo locked in a separate room (this does not include our personal carry firearms; they are kept out of reach but not locked up, as they are considered to always be in use.). We taught our child firearm safety rules, particularly what to do if they encounter a gun outside the home. Lastly, we took away her curiosity by exposing her to firearms and what they can do and allowing her the privilege to own her very own BB rifle that she can use when supervised. As she gets older, we plan on increasing her exposure to firearms, but at this point we think she is only ready for the basics.
As the parent, you are the best judge of what your child is ready for. This is only a guideline for when your child asks about guns for the first time. For us, it was when my wife told me to look out the window, and our little girl was on the porch with a red rubber training pistol in one hand, a rubber training knife in the other, and yelling “Pay attention! I am trying to give you a class!” to the family dog. My wife told me I created a monster. It was pretty cute though and served to reinforce in my mind the responsibilities I have toward being a positive role model. If I am unsafe in my attitude toward guns, I can be sure my kid will take notice.
About the Author: David Nash is a former U.S. Marine Corps noncommissioned officer, correctional supervisor and firearms instructor for the TN Dept. of Correction. He is presently commissioned as an operations officer for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. He is also a certified NRA instructor and holds instructor ratings with both the TN Dept of Safety and the TN Dept of Commerce and Insurance.