Guns the Right Way: Introducing Kids to Firearm Safety and Shooting (2015)
Your Child’s Friends, Neighbors, Teachers and Relatives
Children are by nature curious and rather vocal. They enjoy pleasing other people (especially young children), and also like to impress their peers and those from whom they seek approval. This desire for approval and to please can be a great asset when introducing a child to firearms, as well as in later lessons on skills and safe shooting. It can be a detriment, however, when it comes to other people they come into contact with who may not be as “firearm friendly” as you.
Here are some helpful tips and guidelines in preventing problems or misunderstandings, as well as protecting your child when dealing with friends, neighbors and teachers.
TALKING WITH FRIENDS ABOUT FIREARMS
Have you ever given your child something special, perhaps something that was a little bit out of the ordinary? One of the first things they most likely wanted to do with that special item was show it off to their friends. If and when your child has his or her own firearm, you can expect the very same behavior.
Remember - children like to please and impress. The rules with a firearm, however, are a bit different.
For my oldest daughter’s 10th birthday, she received her very own shotgun, as she was old enough to participate in the state’s youth hunting seasons and showed both desire and skill in clay target shooting. Her birthday is in August, and one of her very first questions was, “Can we bring my new shotgun in one day for show and tell?”
“No, we cannot, but we can take a picture of you with your new shotgun and, if you like, we can talk to the teacher about letting you talk about it during show-and-tell time.”
Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to her) the idea was shot down almost immediately by the teacher and backed by the principal for fear of “creating questions they weren’t comfortable answering.”
It is a shame that we live in a society today where we have to worry about everything that may come out of a child’s mouth as being misunderstood, misconstrued or, in some cases, even twisted to follow an agenda. Though there are many people who are open to firearms but not specifically pro-firearms, and others who are pro-firearms, there are also others who are anti-firearms, and you can count on somebody being offended.
There is that old phrase that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and that is clearly the case when it comes to guns. Prepare yourself for this fact and understand that it is nothing against you or your child.
Take every opportunity to both practice and teach firearm safety. ©National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc.
I was taught from a young age to not talk about the numbers or types of guns that we had in the house. I still believe that is a good idea, as there are nefarious persons in the world who may use that information with malicious intent. Usually, that means someone looking to steal a gun or a friend of a friend looking to steal a gun, or the assumption that because you have guns you also have a lot of money. (Alas, if that were only true.)
Yes, the incidence of these persons is probably rare of course, depending on the area in which you live, but they are out there.
While what you are comfortable sharing with others is entirely up to you, I advise you to take the path of caution, at least initially. Why risk it?
I also believe that children should not be exploited in order to affect the parent. What do I mean by this? There is been increasing concern regarding the questioning of children during their annual medical exams regarding whether or not there are guns in their home. That question is right up there with, “how much money do your parents make?” In other words - it is not really anyone’s business whether or not I own something that is not only legal, but that is specifically addressed in the bill of rights of our Constitution. Anyone that walks into my home will immediately realize that there are firearms there, if for no reason other than there are many taxidermy mounts hung on the wall.
I have talked to my children and the children who I have mentored into firearm shooting and ownership that it is certainly okay to be excited and talk about your new gun. I am also careful to explain to them that they also need to realize that some people may not be pleased, nor will they be impressed with the fact that they have a firearm, and that’s okay, too.
I have always allowed my children to show their friends their new firearm in the control of my home or a shooting range. I also use that opportunity as a chance to both practice and teach safety. I am often surprised at the reactions from children not familiar with guns, as well as the behavior of the child with the firearm in handling it safely.
I find that children also love to teach their peers, and will say things like, “you can hold it but first we have to check and make sure it is empty.”
Finally, in teaching children about firearms, firearm handling and safety, and firearm ownership, I teach from a position that owning a firearm is no more extraordinary than owning a car or a house. Lots of people have them, some are nicer than others, and all should be respected.
PROPER STORAGE OF FIREARMS IN THE HOME
I am an advocate of gun safes and/or locking, steel cabinets to store firearms in a home. There are several reasons for this.
Firearms are dangerous when handled improperly, and the best way to prevent improper handling is to have absolute control over access.
It seems that even those who are uncomfortable with firearms to the extent that they may not allow their children to visit our home are often put more “at ease” when assured that our firearms are stored unloaded and locked in a safe to which only my spouse and I have access.
Do you leave your jewelry out on the kitchen counter? Firearms, in addition to having the potential to be dangerous, are also rather valuable. An easy way to prevent theft of anything is to lock it up.
Just say “NO” to a wooden gun cabinet with a glass front. While these types of storage cabinets can be attractive and show off your firearms collection, the same thing that makes them hat way also puts them at risk. Glass can easily be broken in a theft situation and the locks on these types of cabinets, if they even have them, usually are easy to overcome.
Firearms, in addition to having the potential to be dangerous, are also rather valuable. An easy way to prevent theft of anything is to lock it up.
Without a doubt, Cannon Safe has the best warranty in the safe business. Cannon Safe offers a zero cost lifetime replacement policy. The lifetime policy includes hassle-free 100% no-cost repair or replacement after a burglary, fire or natural flood emergency. They also manufacture many different sizes and models for every need and budget. They are also the parent company of GunVault, manufacturers of small, lockable containers for handguns that can be chained to a bedframe or bolted to a nightstand.
Homak Corporation has been manufacturing cabinets since 1947 and was at the absolute forefront of gun cabinet manufacturing since the early 1980s. Their cabinets feature a top and bottom lock, and come pre-drilled so you can bolt them to the floor or wall in your home, both an additional deterrent to theft.
Cannon provides its customers with the best value in the business, an excellent product, at a fair price, with the best warranty available.
Many people own handguns for personal protection and are wary of locking them up, as they feel it defeats the purpose of having the gun in the first place. After all, if you can’t reach your principle means of self-defense in time, what good is it? The problem is that, as we previously discussed, children are curious. No matter how well you think you may have “hidden” your handgun, there is an excellent chance that your or someone else’s child will find it.
GunVault Corporation has solved this problem. They manufacture an entire line of discreet, secure, lockable storage systems designed specifically for immediate access by an authorized person to a defense firearm. Using a combination of numerical combination, “finger combinations” and even biometric analysis, GunVault’s products keep a firearm absolutely secure until you need it.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE
Guns and gun ownership can be a relatively polarizing topic. Your child’s friends or parents may have a strong reaction and objection to your child shooting a firearm. There have even been instances where well-meaning parents misinterpret something a child has said and wind up making phone calls to child protective services, the police, the PTA, etc., thinking that they are “protecting” a child from some evil deed.
With today’s increased awareness of the concealed and open carry of firearms, there is even a nefarious new term given by people who are anti-gun to the process of intentionally calling in police on a gun owner - it’s called “swatting” (because a police SWAT team usually responds) and can have serious and even deadly consequences.
Hopefully the most you will have to worry about is someone saying something negative to your child about guns.
When this happens, it is important to take the child aside and speak to them about differences in opinion and how just like not everybody likes chocolate ice cream or broccoli, some people don’t like or understand guns and shooting. Kids get it rather quickly.
I instruct children that if their friends or friends’ parents say anything negative about guns they should just remain calm and tell them that they are always safe when they shoot and that in their house they believe in gun ownership, and that they should immediately tell me/their parents about what happened.
This conversation is also better had before a negative experience occurs. Remember, at many stages of a child’s life, peer pressure is a motivating and molding factor in their social status and acceptance. Preparing a child to “diffuse and deflect” a polarizing topic can prevent consequences from a heated interaction between two children who, most likely, both know little about the facts, opinions and politics of guns.
TEACHERS AND SCHOOL
I am often amazed how people entrusted to educate our next generations of citizens can sometimes be so ignorant of both the law and peoples civil rights that they would speak of and even discourage the use and possession of guns. But it happens. It actually happens quite a bit.
There was a day when most schools, (even those in urban areas like Chicago and New York) had shooting as one of their physical education activities, some even having their own range and firearms on school grounds!
How sad we have come so far away from that model of teaching every child both the enjoyment that can be had from shooting guns as well as the serious danger that they can possess.
Unfortunately, due to the heinous acts committed by some seriously mentally ill people at schools with mass shootings, there is an extremely heightened sensitivity about children and guns. This heightened sensitivity extends even to the mere discussion of guns. Children have been thrown out of school for pointing their fingers at other children in pretend handgun fashion. They have been expelled for making a piece of bread in the shape of a gun.
It is absurd, I know, but the fact that it happens means that we need to address it and address it thoroughly before it is your child, or a child who you teach, who is in that situation.
DEALING WITH THE EDUCATION SYSTEM AND FIREARMS
Every year we have a parent teacher conference or open house at the beginning of the school year in order to meet and talk with the new teachers who will be responsible for our children for that school year. It is during this time that my wife and I have what we have dubbed “the conversation” with each of my children’s teachers.
This conversation was brought about by an incident with my younger son and a school staff member misunderstanding something that he was talking about with shooting guns. He was rather young, and as young children do, they were talking about “good guys and bad guys.” My son said that if he was dealing with a bad guy he would simply take a gun and shoot him. A fairly straightforward answer for a six-year-old child.
A portion of that discussion was overheard by a teacher, misconstrued and concluded with a referral to the principal’s office and a visit with the school psychiatrist, as well as a very concerned phone call home.
I started off our “mandatory meeting” afterward incredulous that such a minor incident as speaking about shooting bad guys (and I don’t know about you, but I recall that even the old-time westerns out there had “good guys” and “bad guys” who were always shooting at each other) could result in such a frenzied and detailed response. I often wonder if there would be the same reaction if my children spoke of pounding nails with a hammer, as many assaults and homicides are committed with them as well.
I begin these conferences discussing how we live in a violent world with people who intentionally cause harm and do bad things. I also talk about how we desire to keep communication lines open between the school and us regarding our children. Then I explain to them that in addition to it being a part of my business, my children both own and regularly shoot firearms.
To my children, having a gun is as common as owning a car or having a pet. They think nothing of it and are taught all of the safeties and responsibilities of safe firearm use and handling. They are talked to about and believe that a child having and shooting a gun is a completely normal process and think nothing of talking openly about how often and how well they shoot. My children, from a young age, have also each had their own pocketknife. They were taught similar safety measures and safe and responsible use of a knife. In our house, knives and guns are tools that are similar to hammers and drills. They have a purpose and are used for that purpose. They are never used for anything outside their intended purpose or that may put them or somebody around them in danger.
I ask them to, if they hear my children speaking of guns, reserve judgment on any conversation, and if they have any concerns to immediately contact me and I will speak with both them and the child.
As your child gets older, and because of the proliferation of organizations such as the scholastic clay target association, these conversations become easier to have and the teachers have seemed to be a little more open.
The most important thing regarding children, firearms and school is that conversations are had prior to them attending so that there are no misunderstandings by people with good (or bad) intentions.
DEALING WITH ANTI-GUN PARENTS
This can be a delicate situation. Unfortunately, we have known children who, once the parents became aware that we are a firearm-friendly home, do not allow their children to come over and play. It is a rare instance, but it does happen.
Remember, again, that your two goals when introducing children to firearms is for them to be safe, and to have fun. Not being able to play with their friends is no fun.
This is one of the few instances where I will not pursue a conversation with those parents, but rather simply allow my children to go over to their house to play and interact or to be involved in school and in after school activities with them. Children (especially young children) should not be put in the middle of a battle between parents, as they are still at a point that they do not understand differences in beliefs and values. Besides, I’ve found that most times these parents are not even open to the discussion.
A gun is a great responsibility, and with that responsibility is the requirement that you prepare your child to handle most situations they may find themselves in smoothly and, most importantly, safely!