What Age To Teach Kids Gun Safety?


Here’s an inconvenient truth: firearm safety education saves lives. However, some people fear them and don’t want anything to do with teaching their kids gun safety. At the same time, others agonize over when to start teaching firearm safety in their home.  What’s the right time to start teaching your kids to respect firearms?

Yes, prudent parents teach their kids gun safety. When though.  The simplest answer I’ve heard comes from a retired FBI agent.  “When do you teach kids about guns?  About the same time you teach them about hot stoves, electricity and fire.”  In other words, when you drown proof your kiddos, gun proof them too.

The National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program distills firearm safety for kids down to a few simple concepts:

2. Don’t touch
3. Leave the area
4. Tell an adult

This easy-to-learn, potentially life-saving protocol leaves politics at the door with one goal in mind: save lives.

The Eddie Eagle program has achieved proven results since its introduction in 1988, helping to educate over 29 million kids in firearm safety. It came about from the efforts of “educators, school administrators, curriculum specialists, urban housing safety officials, clinical psychologists, law enforcement officials and National Rifle Association firearm safety experts.” However, that doesn’t stop gun-hating civilian disarmament activists from despising it…and actively working against its common sense goal.

Former Brady Campaign honcho Paul Helmke wrote “NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” Doesn’t Fly or Protect” in the Huffington Post:

[I]t would be wise to stop this misguided excuse for gun safety education in its tracks. The NRA dresses up its gun safety course in the guise of a colorful cartoon character named Eddie Eagle. Yet there is absolutely no evidence directly linking the use of the Eddie Eagle program to a decline in children’s deaths by guns.

Helmke also quotes from a Violence Policy Center “study” in his Huffpo screed:

“The primary goal of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program is not to safeguard children, but to protect the interests of the NRA and the firearms industry by making guns more acceptable to children and youth… The hoped-for result is new customers for the industry and new members for the NRA.”

Helmke wrote penned his anti-Eddy jeremiad shortly before leaving his job with the Brady Bunch. A group that, unlike the NRA (and NSSF), has no gun safety education program for children or adults.

In the end, it’s up to good-guy gun owners to teach our children gun safety.

2. Don’t touch
3. Leave the area
4. Tell an adult

Make sure your kids know it.


  1. avatar Jon Roland says:

    I was taught gun safety at the age of five, by being taught how to shoot a rifle. The next year I got a .22 LR rifle for my birthday, and two years later a .22 LR handgun. No one thought that was improper. Granted I was a very mature kid, but I never had an accident or misuse.

  2. avatar Cucamonga Jeff says:

    Kids see guns all the time. They know they are dangerous and they should only be arround them when an adult is present. At some point I’ve filled a pumpkin with water and put a 1oz hollow point slug through it with them watching so they could understand the power and danger of firearms. It seems to be effective.

  3. avatar Darkman says:

    My education began at 5 or 6 years old. My father grew up in the depression and fought in WW II. He wanted me to understand the importance of firearms in our lives as well as the dangers. We hunted for food to eat and grew the rest. I started hunting with my dad when I was 7. I was given my first gun at age 9. A single shot 22 and my first shotgun at 12. I had to prove that I understood the responsibility of firearms use. It was a different time and most everyone in our area taught their children about guns . Boys and girls. Teach your children early about right and wrong along with consequences of doing wrong. That’s where it starts Then begins to teach them about firearms and the other lessons they need to know. Do this before the computers and video games. Spend time with them and teach them the good and the bad. It is your responsibility even if you don’t own or believe in firearms. You won’t always be there to protect them so teach them. Regret is a terrible thing to live with..

  4. avatar Missouri_Mule says:

    At every age! (I teach Boy Scouts Basic Pistol and CCW in Missouri)

    As soon as they can comprehend – Eddy Eagle

    As soon as they can remember – Colonel Cooper’s 4 Rules

    Repeat – for life.

    1. avatar Missouri_Mule says:

      The Four Primary Causes of Firearms Injuries:
      1. Ignorance
      2. Carelessness
      3. Hollywood
      4. YouTube
      5. Snapchat – Honorable Mention

      1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

        I think it is rather that:

        3 teaches 1
        4 and 5 encourage 2

        1. avatar Missouri_Mule says:

          Great analysis!

      2. avatar Chris says:

        The Four Primary Causes of Firearms Injuries:
        1. Ignorance
        2. Carelessness
        3. Hollywood
        4. YouTube
        5. Snapchat – Honorable Mention

        Actually the constant in nine out of ten involving children gaining access a active criminal owning an illegal firearm and leaving it where access to children occurs. These people are already in gangs or dealing drugs, or using drugs, or robbing people for a living and expecting them to pay attention to firearms access/safe laws when they attention to no laws is insane. We ought to ask why criminals are allowed in homes with kids at all.

        This is why kids should get mandatory training in school of the type NRA offers. Not mandatory handling but mandatory Eddie Eagle.

  5. avatar DaveW says:

    I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. During that period public schools, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and more used “comic books” for training aids in many different life skills.

    To have the leftists decry Eddie Eagle as a bad teaching tool is totally hypocritical. Since they created it, things like Sesame Street, and so many other so-called “children’s television workshop” programs has been promoting the same means of education beginning with pre-school children. They used cartoons to teach sciences, sex education, and more. Shows like Sesame Street use imagination, unreal creatures, false racial balances, and more. Look at their actors. They are out of balance with the population racial, gender, and other demographics. Every time a new group comes along, they add it to the show’s composite.

    At least Eddie Eagle is presented to kids who are mentally ready to learn, while Sesame Street and similar shows hit children with what is essentially subliminal indoctrination (brainwashing) before they have developed critical thinking skills.

    If the left can do that, I see no reason they should attack Eddie Eagle unless they can PROVE beyond a shadow of a doubt that the program is a failure and detrimental to growth.

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    I learned to shoot in the 1960’s. Safety? Not really. Maybe just point the gun away from people. No ear plugs or glasses either. Oh and when I was even younger we didn’t have seat belts or padded dashes in the giant gunboat my parents drove…somehow I’m still alive. I believe in safety NOW…oh yeah my dad belonged to the NRA and we shot at the NRA range near Kankakee,Illinois.

  7. avatar million says:

    That Brady blockhead probably thinks abstinence-only works for sex ed too.

    1. avatar rt66paul says:

      Sadly, so do many right wingers. Children should be taught at a little more depth about life. My parents were mum about sex, they were Catholic raised(as was I until 5th grade), through high school, my mother through 2 years of college. She saw it all in the 30s, her extended family were players – abortions, just wild times. It all happenned then, too. It just wasn’t front page news.
      She wouldn’t have guns near her, she was scared one of us 3 boys would get crippled, so no sports, etc. My father was a scientist on the Atom bomb, he did not see armed conflict, but the one thing he did instill in us was that improper use of firearms was stupid and could be very dangerous.
      Of course most of my friends had .22 and/or .410 long guns, and went to the desert overnight to shoot. I was invited, but never got permission from the folks.

      We must teach our children well about the pitfalls of young adult life: guns, premarital sex, driving crazy, drugs and alcohol. Trying to scare them with bloody movies, pictures of genitals with sores from V.D., stories that alcohol and drugs will make you into a monster, bla bla, doesn’t work and just may make them try it to learn about fast women or just to grow up faster.

      We can’t play them stupid, at 2 years old, we slap thier hands if they try to go there, at 5-7 we explain that there are dangers in the world they may not understand, these dangers have a proper use by those trained in that use. We have to be aware of what they are being exposed to, when we watch a movie where the hero has 100 rounds in one magazine, we must point out the stupidity and also point out that someone should have caught a bullet by then and it is a 50/50 chance that the hero(or the girl he is protecting) would be the one. The same with high speed car chases.

      By 9 or 10(or whenever you think they are ready), they should be taught to shoot, either by you or a professional. Teaching them to drive is a good idea also. Take the mystery out and then show them how to maintain thier tools. Once they realize responsabilities have chores along with them, maybe they won’t misuse these tools.

      1. avatar Button Gwinnet says:

        If you don’t touch a gun, you’re not going to shoot anyone with it. That’s a fact. If you don’t have sex, you won’t ever get VD or get pregnant. That is also a fact. There is nothing wrong with expecting more out of your kids, rather than less.

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          up from the toilet jumped the gonococcus,
          now my balls feel like a pair of maracas.

          not to mention turkey basters.

  8. avatar Larry Cowden says:

    My father started us at 5 with his old BB gun. I started mine at 5-6 with black powder rifles and pellet guns. When they turned about 11 they got their own black powder rifle. They were competing in black powder matches by 6-7 yr. old.

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    There’s a difference between teaching kids about gun safety and teaching them to shoot.

    Learning about safety should start from the time children are old enough to learn, well, anything. The time to teach them to shoot starts when the parents think that their kids are old enough to shoot safely.

    There’s no bright line or magic age.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Learning about safety should start from the time children are old enough to learn, well, anything.”

      Yep, and we have an opportunity to get the gist of ‘Eddie Eagle’ in schools or AT THE LEAST, in PSAs saturating TV broadcasting.

      Counter their whining with “You mean you WANT kids picking up guns and dying? I thought you said there are too many of those lethal things out there?”

  10. avatar Frank says:

    Early and often. If it can walk and talk it can learn to shoot, and the proper rules behind shooting.

  11. avatar ThomasR says:

    I kept BB guns and pellet guns from 5 Y/O to about 10 on my gun rack that I could take out any time to shoot. During this time my dad would take us kids out to shoot at targets with .22LR rifles and taught us gun safety at the same time.

    Then I got my first Winchester .22LR pump at 11 Y/O that I would keep on my gun rack in my room that I could also take out any time without parental supervision. We could also leave our doors unlocked and keys in the ignition. Those were the days.

  12. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Kindergarten sounds like a good time to teach kids the stop, don’t touch, etc. routine in public schools. If you’ve got kids and gu ns you should start earlier. By junior high any kid in public school should be capable of unloading and making safe most any common fire arm. Sometimes the 13 year old is the adult.

  13. avatar Pete says:

    Meh, I’m no expert, but I’d say it depends wildly on the household and the kids. I mean, do you have power tools and do woodworking with your 4-year-old? Or do you cook with the kid? Good, you know, then you’re building the concept of a hazardous tool.

    If the kid thinks the world is a harmless ball pit (assuming such a thing as a pink-eye-free one exists) you’ve a task ahead of you to teach the concept of guns. You could just try drill it into the child, but that’s not fun and I think there’s only so much a kid will learn and retain like that. It’s clunky from a behavioral psych perspective.

    1. avatar Pete says:

      Another thing is what to teach. Stop, don’t touch, leave, get an adult is minimal, doesn’t require live fire demonstration, and should work. But conceptually it’s a floating blob of training, which isn’t the best. It’s why I forget everything I learned in Theatre class.

      What’s the minimum you can teach that a 4 or 5 year old will relate to its existing body of knowledge and thus be more likely to retain?

  14. avatar Nynemillameetah says:

    Conception is the right age. Worst case scenario? Speaking the four rules into your wife’s pregnant belly does nothing. Best case scenario? Your kid has a leg up on the others.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      i don’t remember doing that, but we should have.
      she did shoot during both pregnancies, though.

  15. avatar Aaron J Franklin says:

    I’ve taught my 3 year old to never touch a gun. That is the first rule for her after that when she is older I will teach her to never touch a gun without me personal present and so on. I think the younger the better, just start simple

  16. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    I started with my daughter when she was two years old. I said No a lot back then.

  17. avatar SouthAl says:

    With respect to what age, I think Ralph’s comment above hits it.

    A bit of a tangent:
    I don’t know much about the Eddie Eagle program, but I’ll be an advocate for such formalized, optional, and effective programs. Having said that, can someone enlighten me as to the basis for stating ”The Eddie Eagle program has achieved proven results since its introduction in 1988”. What are the proven results? Not knocking the program, I genuinely want to know.

    One such way to demonstrate the effectiveness is to evaluate children’s behavior in contrived, but realistic, situations (before and after, or during, the training). It is my understanding that the Eddie Eagle program does not incorporate such situations into the training. Am I mistaken? Most serious and validated training programs (in a variety of fields) incorporate such contrivances.

    If the Eddie Eagle program does not include such contrivances, or recommend that parents do so, is the NRA leaving itself open to legal risk should a child who received the ‘incomplete’ training not follow the content of the training (and resulting in a tragedy), since the research on training effectiveness is quite clear about the increased effectiveness when such situations are part of training?

  18. avatar rt66paul says:

    #4, about leaving the area is not always the best idea. If your child has been taught about firearms and what they can do, chances are he/she is more responsable that the other kids. Maybe it is a better idea for yor child to stay there and keep other kids from it, while he/she sends another to get a responsable adult of thier choice.

    Grabbing said gun is not a good idea, even if he/she has the same model at home, the process of unloading can wipe away fingerprints – if it is a crime gun, you don’t want you child’s prints on it.

    There could be one in the pipe and if it is old and worn, not drop safe, another kid trying to grab it could cause a tragedy, putting your child in the middle of a civil suit. Covering it with a jacket or bandana(so attention is not drawn to it) and waiting for adult help could/should be the best action.

  19. avatar Kaban says:

    Hammering the “curriculum” listed in the post is never early enough.

    Teaching safe handling is obviously tied to age of touching the gun. I do want to note that it’ll better start not when a kid learns to bust empty Coke cans in the backyard, but as soon as he or she goes playing with toy guns (well, I guess it is hugely frowned upon by certain part of population. However, there is ample evidence that playing Green Berets at ripe age of 7 has no correlation with becoming mass murderer, homophobe, arsonist or even Washington lobbyist).

  20. avatar James McDaniel says:

    My son has been around firearms since birth. I carry 95% of the time in public and 90%+ of the time at home

    He just turned six this year and I’m planning on purchasing him a 22lr to teach him safety and how to shoot.

    What do you all think, granted every kids maturity level Is different, but as a general statement Is he to young or at the right age

    Looking forward to your opinions

    1. avatar Larry C says:

      Start with the old Daisy cock and load BB gun. Then go to a more powerful pellet rifle and then into the .22. He will become better adjusted to the noise by the time he shoots the .22. And that could help him avoid flinching on the trigger squeeze. And by that time you can really hone in on good marksmanship and safety.

  21. avatar CHLChris says:

    Did you notice the girl in the photo above is sighting with her left eye, but is shooting with her right? I’ve never been able to find a study that explains why so many women are cross-eye dominant. However, the percentage of girls or ladies who are screams that any man who is trying to teach a girl or woman how to shoot must be aware of your pupil’s eye dominance. Especially in rifles and shotguns, this detail will make a HUGE difference to your teaching!

  22. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I learned to shoot starting at 4 with Daisy BB gun. Started my kids about the same age.

    My only problem with Eddie eagle is that just telling kids to not touch with letting handle probably doesn’t work on a lot of kids. It wouldn’t have worked for me. Too curious. I could ask to handle any gun in our house with an adult to help.

    Without parent interaction with gun handling, I would taught myself about gun handling.

    You kids will learn about guns. Either from you or from TV or from other kids. Yake the high road and start em early. It matured my thinking about lots of things not related to guns. And made more responsible.

  23. avatar Docduracoat says:

    I took my children to the range to shoot as each one turned 10
    Before that, they “helped” me clean them
    They were always taught that a fearsome punishment would happen if they ever touched a gun without Mom or Dad present
    None of them have turned out to be a gun enthusiast like their Dad
    Now that they are older, They do sometimes come to the range to spend some time with me
    I know that they know how to handle any of the guns at home and can shoot anyone that needs shooting even if I am not home

  24. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    as long as you can articulate the four rules you are old enough to teach gun safety, to anyone.

  25. avatar John Gancho says:

    We practice not muzzeling each other and trigger discipline during live-fire Nerf operations.

  26. avatar PeterK says:

    I try to start teaching that Eddie Eagle stuff as early as I can. Around 4-5.

    Still don’t have any old enough to take to the range. Hoping to start at 8, though.

  27. avatar Tom says:

    The Eddie Eagle program is more apt to scare kids away from guns than to give them a healthy and respectful attitude towards them. Don’t touch, run away.. aww ‘s mommy mommy there’s a Scarry thing on the table. I called 911 and the police are at the door with more scary things in their hands. We got to run away aww mommy mommy.
    Good going NRA!!!

    1. avatar Larry C says:

      And what kind of fool are you? Have you ever read the program? Obviously not. Never used it either or taught any children. And it’s guaranteed you have NO experience in teaching or curriculum. If you had it would have been noted by now. And it’s guaranteed that you have NO equivalent gun safety curriculum developed that’s been proven anywhere even close to the success rate of the Eddy Eagle program. Next time you want to speak on this, learn something first and get qualified.

  28. avatar Anymouse says:

    That’s the old Eddie Eagle steps. They were revised to be more kid friendly.
    Don’t touch
    Run away
    Tell a grown up

  29. avatar Andre says:

    How about the most important, teaching them how to properly and safely handle one, don’t see it on the list

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