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My oldest son just celebrated his third birthday. One day, it’s going happen. One of my sons will ask me the questions all parents dread. “Daddy, where do guns come from?” He’s already staring at my Glock 22 as it sits safely in my duty holster. He likes to trace the curved polymer handle as it protrudes up from the confines of its secured home. [The gun is in a SS3 holster. My other guns are in a safe with a digital combination lock. I have a smaller safe for my BUG.] My boys will learn about my guns and gun safety at an early age. But when exactly is it the right time for kids to have their first hands-on experience with a real firearm?

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  1. I’d say it completely depends on the kid. I’d start with BB/pellet guns and Airsoft for a year or two before ever letting a kid touch a firearm.

  2. I refused to let him have “toy” guns when he was little. Explained that guns aren’t toys. I did let him handle my firearms only after he could tell me at least 5 safety rules. Around 5yo began limited live fire.
    He’s now around 12 and is starting to realize “other dads don’t carry a gun”. I explained to him I carry for the same reason I’ve got a 4×4. Rather have it and not need it etc. etc. Most other dads he knows don’t keep food in the basement or water barrels around either.
    The most important conversation we’ve had is avoid, defuse, retreat, then and only then would I consider using deadly force. DF is the very last option and stressed I hope I never have to unholster my firearm.

  3. Don’t know if I’ve bored everyone with the story, but my 4-year-old just got introduced to guns. He and his brother caught me holstering my EDC gun getting ready for work (no respect for privacy!). They asked to see it. Rather than polish the forbidden fruit, I unloaded it, chamber-checked it three times and handed it to each of them in turn. They each looked at it, obeying the rules of gun safety, and that was that. They’ve never mentioned it again.

    Some parents would call social services on me. Frankly, I’m surprised it went that well. My 8-year-old knows gun safety. He’s working toward his rifle badge in Boy Scouts (which, by the way, is a *great* organization for bringing up bold, service-minded young men and treats boys like the adventure-loving scrappers they are — and that includes the shy, mildly autistic asthmatic in our pack). The 4yo is afflicted with SLD (selective listening disorder), as many kids are. But he heard the rules and obeyed them. I think he knew that this was something serious.

    All that’s to say it’s up to each parent and child. If the young ‘un had kept asking after the gun or played with it like a toy, things would be different. But as it is, both my kids know there are guns in the house (not where they are), that dad carries one, and they are there because mom and dad care about their safety.

    Oh, and I had to remind them: NEVER tell anyone — teacher, cop, other parent, and especially a bad guy — that daddy has a gun or even hint at it. The 4yo has a big mouth. Takes after his mom (okay, his dad).

  4. Wait… Aren’t they supposed to lick blood and salt off an axe blade at the christening first?

    Actually, whenever they are ready is the best answer for that. You as a parent will have to decide when your child is capable of understanding and following the rules. Some kids as young as 5 are ready. Others, not until their 40s.

  5. I am in the same situation. My son is 3 and doesn’t even have any toy guns, I think they give the wrong impression. But, he has picked up on the concept and uses his imagination to turn things into guns. His sun glasses for example. It is inevitable that he will pick up on it very soon, so I have been formulating a plan to show him a few guns and lay down the ground rules. Start with that coaching for a while and then go the natural progression of plinking with BBs etc. I have a bolt action 22 that will most definitely be put to use by him in the next few years.
    Anyone looked into the Eddie eagle program?

    • I was also nervous about my sons and toy guns, but I quickly learned that they understand what is pretend and what is not. I *highly* recommend the Eddie The Eagle program: My kids “got” it the first time they watched it, and I’ve been reinforcing the lessons as well on my own.

      Does it work?
      I left one of my AR’s out on the bed the other day, walked out of the room, and when I came back, my oldest son was in the room, kneeling down beside the bed, right next to a cool-looking rifle…

      … playing with the cat.

      Because he’s used to guns being around him, guns are not mysterious objects of wonderment: They’re no more intriguing than a lamp, and that’s just the way it should be. Kids are fascinated by new things, and guns aren’t something new to my sons.

  6. My wife and I had very different opinions on this before we even had kids. We got into it every time we talked about it until we finally came to an agreement. She grew up in a house where her dad had guns, but hadn’t fired them or even taken them out of the case since before she was born. I have been shooting since I was 5.
    We finally came to the agreement that our kids can be around guns, I can let them handle them, teach them the safety rules, let them watch while I shoot and clean them, but they won’t start shooting until 7. BB/pellet/airsoft guns at 7, real guns at 8. I was ticked when we first started talking about it because I wanted my kids to grow up with guns and be exposed to them early like I was, but I can live with what we decided upon, as long as I can still teach them about guns younger than 7, they just won’t shoot them yet.

  7. FuriousC, sunglasses? That’s creativity. We have several lefty friends who forbade toy guns in their house. At the last Halloween party, one of the sons was in camo fatigues with an Airsoft AK-47 — a gun which he accurately described as a “Kalishnikov chambered in 7.62×39.” His mom just shook her head. She told us she took away the guns and her boys used sticks. She took away the sticks, they used their fingers. Ain’t no stopping it.

  8. Rokurota, yes, sunglasses! And instead of ‘bang’ he shouts ‘shoot!’. That was just this past weekend. He never watches TV. No violent movies either. Can’t figure it out. I’m thinking I will definitely lay down the ground rules soon since he is definitely learning about them somewhere.

    • Believe me, I did not intend to introduce my 4yo to the concept of guns in the house so soon. But neither did I want to have “the talk” with my 9yo. But when a 3rd grader starts asking questions about stupid stuff his friends tell him, it’s time to give him the straight story, lest he learn wrong. Same with guns. They’re a fact of life.

    • It wasn’t that long ago on TTAG that someone found what they thought was a novelty lighter on the ground
      which turned out to be an actual 22 pistol. Needless to say there was a ND when the person attempted
      to “light” the gun. A person properly educated in guns and gun safety would have known better. Sheltering
      your children and not giving them the information to make sense of the world could be deadly. When would
      Mike teach his kids about STDs? When they are adults? LoL

      • “When would Mike teach his kids about STDs?”

        When they ask him, “hey, Dad, what’s this?”

    • Mike’s idea seems to be a great way to get more gun death stats he can use to grab guns.

      Safety through ignorance! Seems like something from 1984

  9. When my son turned six this year the time seemed right and it was. I had been letting him examine and hold the unloaded guns for about a year (with close supervision). I let him do this often, to remove the taboo aura of guns and hopefully avoid clandestine gun fondling. He knew all the Eddie Eagle rules and the Four Rules and he could identify all the basic components of various guns before he shot one. After he learned how to load, cock, hold, aim and fire, he took his first shot with a Crickett .22 rifle. After a few paper targets to get him “zeroed in” he popped a can of soda. When the can exploded he grinned “the shooter’s grin” and I knew he was hooked.

    His sister learned the same way.

    FWIW I should say both children shot much better with an full-size Marlin bolt action .22 (peep sights) than they did with the youth gun. Other dads I know have said the same thing.

  10. As long as they can handle the weapon safely and responsibly, I don’t see any clear lower limit.
    Sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned.
    There’s footage of a machine gun shoot in Oklahoma from a few years back. One of the rentable weapons on the firing line was a tripod mounted .30 cal of some sort. A father, with some guidance, let his very young daughter fire it – she was six years old at the latest, perhaps even a year or two younger. I had no problem with it at all, since she had eye and ear protection, the tripod held the weapon steady, and Daddy was also right there to help keep it under control.

  11. Nate is absolutely right. It depends on the kid. Some will be ready for the responsibility earlier than others. It’s one of the reasons it’s something that should be introduced by parents: they know their kids best.

    • He had a post? I guess I just filter him out automatically. He hasn’t had anything worthwhile to say in a long time.

  12. I started my two just after my mother completed the City of Dallas academy back in 1970’s. They were 5 and 8. When they ask about her gun we answered, they were allowed to handle empty gun, learned to clean then shoot beginning with .22. Never had a problem with them wanting to mess with any of mine without asking first. No mystery, basically no problems.

  13. I agree it’s all about the parents’ ability to recognize when their child is ready for the task.

    As for toy guns…me, I had all kinds of toy guns as a kid. Heck, when visiting my grandparents’ house, my brother and I would dig out my grandfather’s Luger and Springfield he brought back from the war and play cops and robbers with those (both had been made non-functioning). And I grew up to be a perfectly fine, responsible gun owner.

    Now where’s that human skull filled with Snapple?

    • “Now where’s that human skull filled with Snapple?”

      I don’t know, but I know that in mikey’s place you can find a human skull filled with rubbish.

  14. I will let my boys see and touch my guns probably around 5, but honestly depending on their curiosity level it could be sooner rather then later.

  15. For learning about them 6. Handling an unloaded firearm 6.5. For firing one, 7. For friring anything bigger than a .22, 8. Personally, I think all mentally and physically capable children should be acquainted with a firearms by 12. If you wait until 13, I’m calling child services.

  16. My daughter is about 2.5 and she has dry fired my m&p 15-.22, she knows a gun when she sees it “there’s daddys bang bang”. A year from now I suspect she’ll be shooting cans out at Grandpas farm with us.

  17. My son started learning safety as soon as he could walk and get into things, around 8 months. When I would come in from hunting he would sit beside me while I cleaned the rifle/shotgun. I taught him the names of all the parts and to never touch one unless I was there. If he wanted to see one he was to ask me. Around 4 yrs old we got the ad for Eddie Eagle and had him watch that and showed it to any of his friends that came over. Mine were locked in the gun cabinet but we didn’t know about all of their homes. He started shooting toward the end of his 5th year with a Ruger 10/22. At 7 he was shooting an old Tokarov 9mm I had at the time. He was a better shot than my brother-in-law. He bought his own BB gun when he was six after correctly reciting the safety rules after a long day on the road. He worked clearing downed tree branches and earned a 50 muzzleloader when he was 12. That Christmas we gave him a 20 gauge single shot. He still has both those plus my old 10/22. He bought himself a FNP40 to celebrate his bachelors degree a couple years back.

    He had toy guns as a kid and had no problem identifying the differences between the toys and the real thing. Some friends of the anti-gun Liberal persuasion thought it was terrible but their kids used sticks or their sister’s Barbie and said bang. Our point of view was that each parent knows their kid and should base the training on that child. When we went to the range if Brandon wanted to invite a friend I asked the father and invited him also.

  18. My daughter wanted to learn to shoot at about 6 yoa, because Daddy was always going to the range. We started her off with the safety rules then with my old Daisy BB gun, progressing to a Beeman air rifle, both in the back yard, and finally to the .22 bolt rifle and pistols at the range. Most of her issue at the range was with the noise from the bigger stuff, even with both plugs and muffs.
    One day when she had been shooting the .22 rifle, I noticed her sit down and not go back to it. It took me a few gentle tries to find out what the problem was, and she finally turned to me and held her nose and said, “it stinks Daddy.” Whew. OK. Note to self, only take her to the range when the wind is out of the north…….
    Then when she got to be in the mid teens she got a whiff of my black-powder smoke and fell in love with flintlocks and the smell of sulfur. Now she has a dating qualification for the boys….. “to love me you gotta love my flinlock.”

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