I have had this discussion so many times with parents: should we teach our kids about firearms safety? My answer is Yes. Absolutely. The sooner the better! And here is why: Kids are naturally curious and a lot of times all they know about guns is what they have seen on video games, movies, billboards, etc... Video games are, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous mediums between firearms and deadly consequences - but that is a discussion left for an entirely different post!
At an early age kids pick up nerf guns, rubber band guns, squirt guns, garden hoses (those were one of my favorites), bb guns or imaginary guns and then point them at each other and pull the trigger. It is no surprise then that the natural response for them if they ever encounter a real firearm would be to pick it up and pull the trigger. This is a very scary thought, but hopefully you can begin to understand my position. A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics regarding adult firearm storage practices found that over 1.69 million American children and minors are living in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms.(1) So according to this study, and many like it, the chances that your child might someday encounter a "loaded and unlocked firearm", whether in your home or somebody else's, are exponentially high. The solution is never going to be to "crack down on gun owners", although I agree that proper safety training is crucial to responsible firearm ownership. The solution is to educate our children so that we can rest assured that they would know how to safely navigate the situation when (not if) it happens. Teaching my children to safely handle and respect firearms started at very young ages, as early as 4, and I know that this safety training has taken the curiosity out of the equation and replaced it with education and respect. I watch them on the range and when they're shooting they have focus, discipline, confidence, patience, and respect. Aside from the character-building benefits this training has offered them, I have also seen a profound understanding and reverence for the purpose and application of firearms. I'm a firm believer in safe (and legal) firearm storage practices in the home but I'd be naive to think that everybody who owns firearms is as careful and responsible. I've seen countless devastating stories in the news about kids who find guns and accidentally shoot themselves or a friend. Sometimes it is in a garage, or somebody's basement, or maybe their friend finds one in a nightstand and they sneak out to a field to play with it. We want to tell ourselves that this would never happen to our little Jonny or Susie, but the truth is that unless we teach them they will always be curious. Even if you never plan on having a firearm in your home, putting your kids through a safety course raises awareness and teaches them the seriousness and reality of what could happen by handling firearms negligently.
I hope that safety training can be seen as an ally in preventing firearm accidents. Although it is up to parental discretion on "when" to teach their children, I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't understand the importance of firearms safety education and how it can save lives after I've presented the benefits of Firearm Safety education. We want our kids to be responsible drivers someday, so we show them what can happen if they drive distracted or recklessly and then we teach them how to drive safely to avoid an accident. Of all of the things we want to protect our children from we have to first make them realize the dangers involved before we can teach them the importance of safety. We want our children to make wise choices but how can they unless we educate them? Education is power.
- Catherine A. Okoro et al., Prevalence of Household Firearms and Firearm-Storage Practices in the 50 States and the District of Columbia: Findings from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002, 116 Pediatrics e370, e371-e372 (Sept. 2005), at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/116/3/e370. ⤴︎