Kids firearm safety is often thought about but rarely addressed. In this day and age we have more firearm owners in the United States than ever before. Many new gun owners ask how to own a gun while still keeping their children safe. The common answer is hide the gun or put it in a safe.
Well, if you think back to your childhood, one of your best skills was hide and seek. Most often Santa Claus’s true identity was discovered by kids using this technique. So I’m not an advocate of the hide and seek method of firearm safety in the house. The next alternative is to buy a safe. This is a better solution and should always be used, but a safe in of its self does not address firearm safety with our children.
Some years back I was attending an Instructor Development Course. This is a course that instructs Law Enforcement how to teach. For our final we had to compose and teach a course on any subject we wanted to teach. One student gave their presentation on basic golf and another gave a presentation on woodworking. I gave my presentation on Firearm Safety in the home. My presentation specifically addressed firearm safety for your children. At the start of the class I set a mouse trap, unused of course. I explained to the class that I was not holding a mouse trap. . . It was a gun. I set the trap then told the class the gun is now loaded. As I was setting the mouse trap, carefully, not to set it off on my finger and look like an ass, I explained how this gun is my pride and joy. I just purchased it and it is loaded. I passed the mouse trap (gun) to the first student (cop). I kindly asked him not to set the gun off and don’t shoot the person next to him. I instructed the class to pass the loaded gun to the person next to them and continue to pass the gun until instructed to do otherwise. The trap was passed around the class at least twice without setting it off. As they were passing the trap I began to explain that with a class full of professional officers I was able to get you to pass this loaded gun to each other disregarding everything you were ever instructed about safe gun handling. I most certainly can get your child, with no weapons instruction, to hold a gun. At that point the light came on. The next person holding the trap carefully unset it and passed a safe and unload firearm to the person next to him. The point of this exercise was not only to get the attention of the class but to help the students see how vulnerable our kids could be. If we, as trained professionals, can be caught up in the moment so can our children.
So now I’ll ask you. How safe is your house? Are your guns secured away? If you’re reading this chances are you’re already aware of the dangers of irresponsible gun ownership. So, most of you have your guns locked away from the little hands. If you’re like most Americans you may allow your children to visit or play over relatives and friends houses. I asked a law enforcement class of students if they perform a “protective sweep” when walking into a house to insure no danger awaits them. Protective sweeps are a common practice for law enforcement in many situations that will allow the officer to check the area of a structure so they can deem it safe while they perform their duties. I asked the class how many officers with children perform a protective sweep of the home they are dropping their children off to visit or play at. Well, I’m sure you can guess the answers . . . None. This is not to criticize anyone or judge a parent. That question is setting up my next point. I know you are not going to do a protective sweep of your sons or daughters friend’s parents’ bedroom. Chances are if you try that you and Jr. will quickly be asked to leave. I know this practice is unrealistic so here’s my suggestion. Educate!!
You, as a responsible gun owner, can lock away your guns, hide the bullets, replace the sheetrock on the wall with rubber padding, and cover all the electrical outlets but at some point your pride and joy will find himself or herself in a potentially dangerous situation and the only thing that they will be able to rely on is the education taught by you. Simply saying “don’t touch a gun” is just not enough. What worked for me as a child, and what I’ve passed on as a father, is to take the mystery out of the gun. Take away the curiosity. When is the best time to start educating the child? Answer, the first time they show an interest in the gun. Sitting down with them in a safe controlled environment and taking the time to explain what the gun is, and what it can do, is key.
All weapons handling should be safe and controlled. Weapon unloaded, muzzle pointed in a safe direction (no muzzle sweeps) finger always off the trigger are the cardinal rules of safety. BTW, nearly every child first learning how to safely handle a weapon will try to put their finger on the trigger. Make that correction immediately. Once safe handling of the weapon is underway, begin teaching the child what to do if they find a weapon, what to do if their friend shows or wants to show them a weapon, and why they should react in the prescribed way. Now, after your child is safely introduced to the weapon, start all over again. My cardinal rule is almost no matter what I’m doing, anytime my son wants to “see a gun” I must make the time for him and show him the gun and rehearse the safety rules. Why do I respond like that? My child must know he has the ability to handle a weapon anytime he desires. There is no need to handle a weapon behind dads back. The curiosity is satisfied. It’s a matter of asking. After some time it will be like that new X Box game he had to have so bad, ahhh, it’s okay every once in a while, it gets boring. Once the curiosity is replaced by the education, you are now on the right track.
Keeping this balance is a perishable skill. Don’t ever think it’s over and you’ve succeeded in your mission. It’s a matter of maintaining what you’ve started, a very expensive Christmas tradition. Stay safe and enjoy the sport with your children.