From as early as I can remember, there were guns in the house while I grew up. Back in the day, it was more common for guns to be in a closet or under a bed, as were the guns in my parent’s home. Now, responsible gun owners are expected to have their guns locked up and out of reach of children. I can understand why and I don’t disagree. The cost of a safe is far cheaper than the cost of a life. So if we all lock up our guns, how, when, and to what extent to we teach our children about guns, gun safety, and how to use them?
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says,
Parents, professionals and many others are concerned about the large numbers of children and adolescents killed by firearms. In order to prevent further deaths, it is important to remember the following:
1) We cannot gun-proof our children and adolescents. Children are playful and active. Adolescents are curious and impulsive. Such healthy traits when mixed with guns can cause death.
2) The best way to protect children against gun violence is to remove all guns from the home. If guns are kept in the home, there will always be dangers.
Point number one applies to adults too. We can’t gun-proof anyone. Such healthy traits such as curiosity and impulsiveness can be deadly when mixed with just about anything. Singling out guns is not helping to remove the dangers of chainsaws that many people own and leave unlocked in a garage or shed.
Point number two does nothing to solve the problem either. Removing guns from the home and sheltering kids from firearms altogether only makes kids more susceptible to learn about guns from possibly the worst sources available; T.V. and video games. If everything kids learn about guns is from bad sources, when given the opportunity to handle a firearm, an ignorant kid will likely display a lack of safety precautions that might result in an “accidental” discharge (negligence on the kid’s and the parent’s part).
How do we teach our children about guns?
When I said there were guns in my house while growing up, I don’t remember ever not knowing how to handle a firearm. Why? Because my dad taught me what to do and what not to do. We were not hunters, so all the time I spent shooting was outdoors at targets. We went shooting often. I helped my dad clean the guns after we’d shoot. He would constantly remind me when at the range of the do’s and don’ts.
We wore eye and ear protection. We never pointed at or shot at anything we didn’t intend on destroying. The mystery of guns was removed because I knew of their destructive power and I shot them often. My curiosity and impulsiveness was a non-issue because I had no reason to be curious and I didn’t have to shoot on impulse, I just had to wait till the weekend.
There may not be an exact and proper method for teaching gun safety to anyone. Everyone is different and how we teach our kids needs to be tailored to fit. The point is that we teach our kids about what we keep locked up in those heavy safes and do it in a way that they understand the responsibility that comes with owning and shooting guns.
The best way for a student to master a subject is familiarity and repetition. With any subject in school or work, learning the material and practicing produces mastery. It is no different with firearms. We should allow our kids to be familiar with guns and the requisite procedures for safe-shooting. Drill them on proper technique. Quiz them about what they should do if they see a gun out in the open. B
ased on their age, make appropriate decisions about what to teach them and to what degree. For instance, you might not take a four year-old to the range, but you can teach him the different parts of a gun and teach him to never touch them without “mom or dad” around.
If we have guns in the home, it is our responsibility to teach our kids about them. In addition, we should teach them WHY we have guns. We should teach them that the constitution protects the right to own them, that people have died to defend the constitution and that guns have protected the people who have defended the constitution.
We should teach them that guns are like tools and when used properly, are effective for many purposes. We have a duty to respect firearms and to instill that respect in our children. When and how to teach our children about guns is up to us, but we shouldn’t ever consider our kids too young to introduce them firearms. The NRA has some good info if you haven’t really considered the topic. Find it here.
Firearms were a catalyst for many bonding moments between my dad and myself. Now that I’m a dad, I feel that same responsibility to pass on the tradition of firearm ownership to my kids and the knowledge and training that goes with it.