“[Utah] state education leaders gave preliminary approval Friday to a rule that makes it clear schools are allowed to teach gun safety to students,” sltrib.com reports. “The rule was created after a lawmaker discussed running a bill earlier this year to require such instruction in hope of helping children avoid accidental shootings. Schools are already allowed to teach students what to do if they see a gun, and the rule just makes that clearer.” All this about one lesson and one lesson only: if you see a gun, leave it alone and tell an adult. That’s it, Eddy Eagle the Eagle fans. Nothing more, nothing less. Which is nowhere near enough firearms instruction to keep a child [relatively] safe. TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia are invited to offer their suggestions on topics for further firearms education. Here are mine:
1. Guns are dangerous
Kids watch people getting shot day in and day out. Through the magic of videogames, they shoot thousands of cyber-folk, and got shot in return. NERF guns are go! I’ve got nothing against any of these activities. I don’t believe toy guns or videogames desensitize children to guns, the effects of guns or violence in general. But they don’t teach kids the most important lesson about firearms: they’re extremely powerful and, thus, dangerous.
There is only one way for them to understand what a firearm can do: a demonstration. What kind of demo works best is up to the parent/educator’s imagination and discretion. I’ve found that a sacrificial toy works pretty well. I had my ear protectors on at the time, but I’m sure my seven-year-old mouthed the words “Holy shit” after watching a broken Barbie meet its maker. I then blew away a model of a hand. She grabbed her own mitt in sympathy. Point taken? I hope so.
2. Guns are predictable
Respect for firearms’ destructive power is good. Paralyzing fear is not. Children tend to fixate on a gun’s trigger, rather than the muzzle. They NEED to fixate on the muzzle, so they never point a real gun at anyone. So they know how to avoid getting shot. To avoid paralysis, they need to know that if the muzzle of a gun isn’t pointed at anyone, no one’s going to get killed or seriously injured (save Ricochet Rabbit).
By the same token, children should know how to push the muzzle off target and how to find cover/concealment. To assume that no one will ever point a gun at your child—whether the weapon’s in the hand of another child, an irresponsible adult or something far worse—is dangerous complacency. Again, practice makes perfect—with an Airsoft, of course.
[NOTE: The rabbi recommends treating all guns as if there’s a three-foot flame coming out of the barrel. I’d love to rig a gun for a demo with a flame-throwing feature. Anyone want to help?]
3. Guns are avoidable
Look! There’s a gun! Don’t touch it. Let’s tell an adult! This approach to gun safety assumes that the gun in question is just lying there, doing nothing. This is a deeply flawed strategy. For one thing, how often do children happen upon a gun? They usually go and find one. Go tell an adult about a gun you went to find and knew you shouldn’t but did. Riiight.
Even if a child happens upon a firearm and knows not to touch a fallow weapon, what about little Johnny Showoff, who was absent from school the day Eddie the Eagle flew into town? What about the kid who doesn’t listen to a word he’s told? Who, in fact, does the opposite. What happens if HE picks it up?
Run! Children should be told to get the hell out of Dodge when a six-shooter shows up in town. Equally important, they should be instructed to rat out any friend who has or talks about having a gun, so that their parents can investigate the truth of the matter.
As I said, there’s more. Lots more. But the main point is this: gun safety is about gun safety awareness. The sooner your child has that, the better. It’s an educational process that’s too important to delegate to anyone, ever.