Guns in the Home
I was taught about gun safety at a very young age. My father was a firearms dealer, gun collector, and hunter, and we had shotguns, rifles, and pistols in almost every room in the house. When my brother and I were old enough, Dad took us to a firing range and taught us to handle firearms safely. He also instilled in us a deep respect for guns, along with a realization of the damage they could do. As a result, we never, ever even thought about touching a gun unless we were under the supervision of a responsible adult. This warning was given on a regular basis, just in case it didn’t sink into our heads the first hundred or so times. Sadly, not all gun-owning parents are as diligent with teaching firearms safety as my father was. If you want to avoid tragic gun accidents and teach your kids about gun safety, I have some tips for you.
Make Guns Safe
Firearms and kids in the same home can be a recipe for disaster. Even if you’ve instructed your children that your guns are off-limits, they might be tempted to handle them when you’re not around. Make sure your firearms are not loaded, and use gun locks. There are several different types of locks available, including trigger locks, cable locks, magazine locks, and breech locks. Many new firearms come with locks, while most older guns don’t. Nevertheless, gun locks are easy to find and simple to use. They’re either keyed or have a combination that must be used in order to make the gun operable.
Different Types of Gun Locks:
Store Firearms Properly
Another must-do for gun-owners with kids in the house is to store firearms and ammunition in a safe place, under lock and key. All sorts of gun safes are available, including walk-in versions for owners with numerous firearms. Another option is to store guns in a locking cabinet. It’s also best to store ammunition in another place, away from the guns.
Don’t think hiding your gun in the top of your closet is an effective way to store firearms safely. Most kids are curious, and some are fascinated with weapons. When you’re away, the kids might search for your gun and find it. Even if they’re not looking for the gun, they could run across it accidentally while searching for something else.
As I already mentioned, my dad didn’t keep his guns locked up. I suppose he should have, but he didn’t. He assumed my brother and I would follow his strict orders about not touching his firearms when he wasn’t present – and Dad was right. But not all children follow orders, so it’s better for you, as a parent, to keep your offspring safe.
A Guide to Gun Safes:
Guns in Other Places
Just because you’re a responsible gun owner doesn’t mean that your neighbor is. Your child might visit a home where guns are out in the open or are easy for inquisitive kids to find. It’s important for you, as a parent, to know the safety of any environment where your child might be visiting.
If your son or daughter is invited to someone’s home to play, don’t be shy about asking the parents about any guns in the home. Don’t come off as accusatory – just explain that you’re concerned about accidents involving firearms and kids. If the parent responds that he or she is a gun owner, ask how the firearms are stored. You might want to reciprocate voluntarily and explain how your guns are stored.
Your child will also need to learn to be proactive. Teach him to react appropriately when he sees a gun. He needs to alert the closest adult, and if no adult is present in the home, he needs to get as far away from the firearm as possible and contact you immediately.
Teach Kids to Handle Guns Safely
If your kids are going to be exposed to firearms, teach them how to handle them safely. As soon as your child is old enough to properly handle a firearm, take him or her to a local shooting range with a gun that can be handled effectively by a child.
In many cases, a child’s first gun is a BB or pellet gun. These were once viewed as toys, but they can result in some serious damage in the wrong hands. They can kill birds and small mammals, and they can injure humans. Of course, they’re not as dangerous as “real” rifles, shotguns, and pistols, but they still need to be handled in a certain way, so they might be a good place for you to start with gun safety.
Transport guns safely: When taking firearms to the range, make sure the gun isn’t loaded, and then check it again. Place the safety on, even though the gun isn’t loaded. Place the firearm in a case or other secure place, with the barrel aimed away from any human or animal in the vehicle. Keep the ammunition in a different secure place.
Match the gun to the child: Don’t allow your kid to shoot a gun that’s too much for him or her to handle. Some rifles and shotguns simply have too much recoil for a small shooter to absorb.
Carry a long gun safely: There are several ways to carry a shotgun or rifle safely, but in my opinion, the safest carry method for kids is to use a shoulder strap. The strap should go over the shoulder, and the barrel should be pointing up. The hand should keep a firm grip on the front of the strap to ensure stability. Hands should be kept away from the trigger.
Don’t point a gun at something unless you plan on shooting it or killing it: Firearms are not toys and should not be waved around. A young shooter needs to be aware of the people around him and know where they are at all times. The same goes for pets. If you have a dog along while shooting, keep the animal out of the target area.
Set up a safe target: An adult should be responsible for placing targets. Take into account for stray shots and the possibility of ricochets.
Use protection for your eyes and ears.
Make your child aware of a gun’s power: Before your child ever fires his first shot, he needs to realize how much damage a gun can do. A good way to do this is to shoot something like a pumpkin or watermelon. Allow him to inspect the destroyed fruit and compare the results with what would have happened if the shot had been fired at a human or animal.
Check your shot: When target shooting, have your child check his shooting area before firing. Make sure the target is clear and that there are no people or animals heading in the direction of the target.
Shoot safely: Teach your child to hold a firearm safely when firing. He or she should take a squared-off stance, with knees slightly flexed and legs apart. The gun should be shot from the side of the dominant eye. The butt of a shotgun or rifle should be held snugly in the shoulder. The elbows should support the firearm’s weight, and they should always be held below the gun. The non-shooting hand should be placed under the forestock. Fingers should be kept outside the trigger guard until firing. The cheek should be pressed against the stock, with the vision lined up with the sight. The safety should remain on until ready to fire, and the trigger should be squeezed – not jerked.
Be a Good Role Model
Oftentimes, kids emulate what they see their parents do, so it’s important for you to be a great role model when it comes to firearms safety. If your youngsters see you handling firearms with great respect and precision, they’ll tend to do the same. Don’t expect your child to master gun safety with just one experience. Like most skills, it takes time and lots of practice. Likewise, go over gun rules frequently with your kids, and make sure they’re listening and that they understand. To keep and bear arms is a right guaranteed by our Constitution, but that right also requires considerable responsibility. Every year in the United States, children are accidentally killed by guns. Sources disagree on the exact number, but they range from fifty to a little more than 100. In truth, one is too many. Don’t let your son or daughter become a tragic statistic. If you’re going to exercise your Second Amendment right, be super responsible. Take the steps necessary for safe gun ownership, and teach your kids about gun safety.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 12, 2016:
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 11, 2016:
This is so important! It is so sad when hearing on the news about kids playing with guns and accidentally killing another child or adult...sometimes even themselves. As you said...guns are not toys!
Linda Todd from Charleston on December 31, 2015:
Holle, as always you have very good articles with great information that is needed. My husband's niece died from this very thing at a young age. They were playing with guns. You are right it can happen even with safety measure in place. As always enjoyed reading your information.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 30, 2015:
My dad was a freak. Way over the top on gun safety. But he used one once to defend us. He was a Doc. Seen too many gun shots. But by golly we were not to be afraid of them -- just respectful. My life is better for guns, not worse. Maybe most do not get that concept.
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on December 30, 2015:
I had the same kind of dad! His guns were kept on a rack in the mud room, and we knew not to touch them.