Guns the Right Way: Introducing Kids to Firearm Safety and Shooting (2015)
Introducing Young Children to Firearms
The concept for this book came about because of the many questions I received from parents wishing to properly introduce their own children to firearms. The vast majority of those who had questions were parents of rather young children.
Some of the questions they posed included:
· What is the proper age for me to teach my child gun safety?
· When is it okay for a child to shoot a gun?
· If I have a gun in my house, am I asking for trouble?
· I’d really like to take up shooting, but my spouse says not until the kids grow older.
Growing up around firearms and hunting, much of what I learned about guns came from a mix of both active and passive learning. Certainly there were experiential learning opportunities as well as designated safety lessons, but there was also a great deal of reinforcement over a period of many years that is difficult to replicate in a how-to format. Do you set up your child to walk in when you are cleaning your firearm? What if you don’t own your own firearm and simply want your child to have the experience and knowledge to remain safe and make their own choices about guns?
It posed a difficult dilemma.
The main issue I have found is that many people wishing to introduce their children to firearms have absolutely no idea how to begin. This book can be the foundation for your lesson plan to properly introduce your child to firearms.
Some might assume that keeping their children away from firearms is a way to keep them safe. Some might end up doing just that, never knowing that it was entirely the wrong path to take.
A key understanding here is to realize that keeping children from firearms and keeping children safe while properly introducing them to firearms are two entirely different paths, and that no matter how hard you try you will never be able to be with your child everywhere, all the time.
Young children love to have fun and are usually excited to repeat pleasant, successful activities. Your job is to make sure that happens every time.
HOW TO FORMULATE A LESSON PLAN
(FROM A TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE)
By Gail Luciano, Educator with more than 30 years of results-oriented, youth teaching experience.
If you were going to construct a building, would you just start nailing together boards? Digging holes? Would you build the roof first and then the floor? How about something simple like planting a garden? Where would it be? How many rows would it have? What vegetables would you plant, and where?
You wish to teach a youth the safe and proper handling of firearms. Where do you begin? You need a plan. Educators call this plan a Lesson Plan.
A lesson plan is a guide, made by the teacher, that covers the subject matter in the area of learning you are trying to teach. It begins with a heading, and then is broken down into the main category, with sub-categories in each of the learning areas. The heading is the subject, the main category is the main objective or learning concept, and the sub-categories list the methods you will use to reach your main objective.
It is much like the outline you would make to create a composition or theme paper. If, for example, you want to teach a Language lesson on verbs: The heading would be Language, the main category would be Verbs, and the sub-categories would be things like:
1. Make a list of things that show action, like running, jumping, talking.
2. Draw a picture to illustrate these actions.
3. Write a sentence to go with your picture, etc.
Teaching students in the primary grades (grades one-five) requires that you design a plan covering all areas of the curriculum such as Reading, Mathematics, Writing skills, Science, etc. Teaching in the intermediate to upper grades (grades six-twelve), requires you to design a plan in your specialty area such as Social Studies. This is much like constructing a building. Primary grades are the foundation, intermediate grades are the walls, and the upper grades put on the roof. The same scenario applies to a lesson plan. The heading is the foundation to build on, the categories help build the walls, and the sub-categories give you a start on the roof. The project is complete when the students understand the lesson.
How does an educator decide what to teach? Most of the curriculum taught is decided by the particular district where you teach. Aside from the subject matter, there are state requirements and certain state standards that must be met.
So, how does a teacher decide what to do and how to do it in order to fulfill all of the requirements and insure that each child in the classroom learns what is necessary? The district supplies you with the headings and most of the main categories. You, as the educator, have to come up with the sub-categories. Sometimes you can find ideas from outside sources, like teaching manuals, reference books, computers or fellow educators. Most of the time, however, you just have to be creative.
Remember Tim? What do you think Tim would have done if he had found a loaded gun in someone’s house and had no idea of the safe rules of gun handling?
Here’s the most important question that I would have you answer: When it comes to your children and their lives and safety, is “maybe” an acceptable answer?
PREPARING TO INTRODUCE A YOUNG CHILD TO GUNS
Before you begin introducing a young child to firearms keep in mind some of the following suggestions.
First, make sure that you are familiar with the rules of safe gun handling
Learning the rules of safe gun handling is a vital part of the process. Everyone looking to introduce young children to firearms should have a level of expertise that allows them the confidence and ability that, so that when it is time to educate young children about firearms and their proper and safe use, it will already be both intuitive and habitual.
Create fun situations to learn
Creating fun situations to learn is imperative when introducing young children to firearms.
Not planning ahead can create frustration for both you and the child. Not only can this complicate the proper introduction of a child to firearms and firearm safety, a negative experience with an initial introduction can follow that child and sour them on other possible learning situations.
Think of everything that you have enjoyed doing over the course of your life. Now, how many of those things had an initial negative experience associated with them? Perhaps some, but most likely not most.
One of the key concepts of successfully introducing young children to firearms is consistency in your method, materials and means of teaching.
If your child responds well to physical activities, you should proceed with a more hands-on approach and maintain that style throughout the lesson plan. In many cases, the materials used with young children are not going to include a great deal of printed or reading material. Most likely you will be doing a great deal of talking while allowing them to explore the proper firearm for someone of their size and stature. The means of teaching is mostly related to the location and plan of action, or lesson plan, in order to ensure all necessary knowledge and skills are taught. The means should make this easily assimilated and well retained.
Deciding to introduce a young child to firearms requires some reflection and a thorough personal assessment. This endeavor you are about to undertake entails a good deal of preparation. We’ll review the steps of the planning phase, to help you decide in what manner you can most easily and effectively introduce your young child to firearms.
Some people are great teachers. Many are not. In many cases, children learn better from a person other than their parent due to conflicting messages, rules and even feelings. A disciplinary incident that occurred between you and your child earlier in the day can have a drastic effect on a child’s ability to learn and participate. Losing focus is something that also needs to be addressed often with a young child, as a moment of lost focus or misdirected attention when dealing with a firearm can have serious and even deadly consequences.
My children (who all participate and enjoy shooting) have experienced some of their greatest gains in shooting skill while being taught by somebody else. Honestly consider the following questions before you ever begin introducing a young child to shooting and firearms.
Do you enjoy spending time with children?
This is most likely not an issue with your own children but, as a parent myself, I know that there are times when you need to be away from your child and cannot effectively perform with them around. When you are instructing a child on the handling and/or use of a firearm, that simply cannot happen.
Do you have a great deal of patience?
Young children lose focus quite often. A butterfly flying through your lesson area can completely shut down your teaching session and ability for that day. That’s okay.
The important thing to remember is that this lesson and introduction is all about the child. If it is not fun for them, or if it goes on for too long a time period, they will not want to participate. And if they do not participate and effectively learn, they will not obtain and retain the necessary knowledge to keep them safe when you may not be with them.
After some serious introspection and reflection, you may realize that it is better to find a skilled mentor to teach your child about guns and gun safety.
Don’t feel bad about this. It is quite often that we separate children from their parents in our group lessons. Sometimes staying in the parent/child team puts too many expectations on each participant. That’s not fun.
Are you able to repeat the same thing over and over without becoming frustrated?
You may completely understand a concept or lesson the first time it is presented. Children, and especially young children, learn through effective repetition and practice.
When dealing with children, you must be prepared to repeat the same information, sometimes many times in the same lesson.
It is been my experience that those children learn the most, and most effectively, when that repetition and practice includes a great deal of hands-on activity and fun.
Ideally, you replied yes to these questions.
If you did not, or you have concerns, I urge you to think carefully before proceeding. Better to wait and have the lesson work out properly than to make an error that may at best sour a child’s experience, and at worst create an unsafe situation.
Many people believe that firearms and shooting are very expensive. There are certainly guns out there that cost a great deal of money. However, the reality is that, with the proper planning and research, you can actually educate young children about firearms and expose them to shooting at a very low cost… even for free.
KEEP GUN SAFETY SIMPLE FOR CHILDREN
So much revolves around the technical aspects of child gun safety. Kids understand the meaning of rules when put in their perspective. The tried-and-true method is the “laser” rule. I tell kids a laser is constantly pointing out the end of their barrel. Like Star Wars, the laser destroys and cuts through anything it touches.
Scaring gun safety into our kids does not work.
It is important to teach children about guns and correct handling methods without the scare tactic. Some teachers believe painting a vivid picture scares a child into safety. I don’t find this to be the case. An explanation of the consequences of poor safety is needed, but without graphic details. We want our children to be comfortable handling a weapon not scared to use it.
- JL Sumpter, Outdoor and Firearms Writer
Dedicating your energy to laying some groundwork prior to the first lesson - learning how children learn, deciding what type of firearm would be best to start with and planning your curriculum - is a good starting point.
I recommend not spending a great deal of money on a bunch of brand-new equipment. You can accomplish a great deal of the education and training to properly introduce your child to firearms with a minimal amount of gear, and much of it can be acquired by borrowing, purchasing on the used firearm and resale market, or even attending an event or visiting a gun store or range where those firearms are located.
Especially in the case of young children, spending a great deal of money will most likely not make your introduction to firearms any more effective. You should use a firearm that fires inexpensive ammunition, does not have any adverse effects like recoil and is easy and rather intuitive to use. The last thing you want is to have to stop early or shoot less because of the cost of ammunition, an aversion to loud noise or the pain of recoil.
Remember, in order to have the greatest success, you want to have more of a plan then waking up one day and saying, “I think I will instill a lifelong love and knowledge of the safe handling of firearms in my child today.”
If you plan on doing it yourself, introducing a child to the safe use of handling firearms is more than a simple task that can be checked off. It can be, and most often is, a long-term commitment.
There will be times when you become frustrated. There will be times when the child will become frustrated. When this occurs, take a deep breath, pause what you’re doing, evaluate the situation and decide the appropriate action to move forward.
The reality is that these skills will help your child be knowledgeable and, more importantly, remain safe throughout their life. Therefore, the training deserves the proper focus, time and attention.
Most likely, you will experience some benefit as well. Learning the rules of safe gun handling, creating fun situations to learn in, along with being consistent, all involve skills that, once learned, can assist you in other areas of your life.
As an example, for the past 20 or more years I’ve made a majority of my living as a commissioned sales representative. A large portion of sales involves the education of the customer about the product or service. Teaching skills can certainly transfer between subjects, and even I am surprised by the amount of benefit I have received from spending many hours teaching children about guns.
Obviously, I can’t offer my sales prospect an ice cream cone if we find ourselves in a stressful situation, but there are many other techniques - such as rephrasing a question, using an easily understandable analogy, or even drawing a quick diagram - that have had the result of gaining me a large number of accounts and sales over my career.
Patience is also a large component of the sales process, as some prospects that clearly need your product or service (and even may want it) just aren’t ready to make that purchase right now.
If this were your prospect, wouldn’t you rather earn all of their business moving forward at their preferred pace than force them to move according to your (or, more likely, your boss’s) timeline and only getting one sale, or maybe losing their business entirely?
This is of the same importance.
My recommendation to you is to always have a backup plan, even if that backup plan is quickly packing everything up and heading to the nearest ice cream shop for a couple of scoops.
One of the most important things you can do when planning your introduction of the child to firearms is to allow enough time for the lessons you want to teach but not so much time that a child will lose interest or become bored with what you are doing. Most importantly, it has to be F-U-N.
One of the most enjoyable parts of learning safe gun handling is shooting. Make certain that each lesson in your initial stages of introduction allows as much or more actual shooting and other engaging and FUN activities as lesson time.
PLAY, FUN AND LEARNING
There is not specific research that explores the relationship of play, fun and firearm safety and use. Much of the instructions, tips and helpful anecdotes here are a result of my almost four decades of firearm experience and decades of personally instructing thousands of youth. There are, however, many recognized experts in the field of “play” as it applies to a child’s learning capacity.
Peter Gray is a PhD research professor at Boston College. His recent book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, delves deeply into the relationship between children’s play and learning.
In a recent paper, “The decline of play in the rise in psychopathology in children and adolescents” (American Journal of Play, volume three, number 4, p. 443), he reviews research on the restriction of play in childhood and values of children being allowed to play.
There are several startling conclusions based on the review of the research but, mainly, “play functions as the major means by which children: 1. Develop intrinsic interest and competencies; 2. Learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules; 3. Learn to regulate their emotions; 4. Make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and, 5. Experience joy. Through all of these effects, play promotes mental health.”
Laurel Bongiorno, PhD, is the director of Champlain College’s graduate program in early childhood education, with specializations in teaching and administration, in Burlington, Vermont. She has taught preschool, directed early childhood programs, and studied parents’ perceptions of preschoolers’ learning through play. Following is her list of “10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play.”
1. Children learn through their play.
Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop:
· Cognitive skills - like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store
· Physical abilities - like balancing blocks and running on the playground
· New vocabulary - like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs
· Social skills - like playing together in a pretend car wash
· Literacy skills - like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant
2. Play is healthy.
Play helps children grow strong and healthy. It also counteracts obesity issues facing many children today.
3. Play reduces stress.
Play helps your children grow emotionally. It is joyful and provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.
4. Play is more than meets the eye.
Play is simple and complex. There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional and games with rules--to name just a few. Researchers study play’s many aspects: how children learn through play, how outdoor play impacts children’s health, the effects of screen time on play, to the need for recess in the school day.
5. Make time for play.
As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social and emotional development.
6. Play and learning go hand-in-hand.
They are not separate activities. They are intertwined. Think about them as a science lecture with a lab. Play is the child’s lab.
7. Play outside.
Remember your own outdoor experiences of building forts, playing on the beach, sledding in the winter or playing with other children in the neighborhood. Make sure your children create outdoor memories too.
8. There’s a lot to learn about play.
There’s a lot written on children and play. David Elkind’s The Power of Play (Da Capo, 2007 reprint) is also a great resource.
9. Trust your own playful instincts.
Remember as a child how play just came naturally? Give your children time for play and see all that they are capable of when given the opportunity.
10. Play is a child’s context for learning.
Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play. It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, in playing restaurant, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders and make out checks. Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.
Finally, Dr. Alison Gopnik is the professor of psychology and an affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California Berkeley. She has completed numerous studies of children that demonstrate children are intellectually more skilled and more advanced in their thinking than previously believed.
It is her belief that, “one area that has been overlooked this outdoor play. Outdoor play needs to do more than just offer children opportunities for physical exercise. Children also need opportunities to explore. They need places to investigate. They need stairs to climb and they need trees to hide behind. They need to have a sense that they are discovering something new going on around them.”
In addition, she believes that children of preschool age are much more open and that the things that they get to explore during this time can be of most importance later on.
“Preschool is a part of a great evolutionary story. The preschool years may be the most important time of learning we ever have. The preschool years, from an evolutionary point of view, are an extended period of immaturity in human lifespan. But it is during this period of immaturity the exploration and play take place. Ultimately, exploration and play during preschool turns us into adults who are flexible and sophisticated thinkers. If you look across the animal kingdom, you’ll find that the more flexible the adult is, the longer that animal has had a chance to be immature.
“I think that even the term preschooler is a bit misleading… It implies that our job is to get children ready for school and that school is where the important things happen. But rreschool isn’t just about readiness. It’s an important entity in its own right. Indeed, what preschool teachers do is arguably more important than what occurs in the elementary school. And I think we have lots and lots of evidence of that now.” (from http://www.naeyc.org/files/tyc/file/TYC_V3N2_Gopnik.pdf)
What is evident from these experts in child learning is that young children are more open to learning at this period of their life than at any other. Conclusion: This is an excellent time to build lifetime awareness of the possible danger of misusing a firearm, habits like proper handling and safety, and enjoyable experiences that can translate to lifelong passions, should that be your goal.
There is a large body of evidence supporting that children learn and learn best through play. Conclusion: Play is fun and experientially-oriented, therefore, the more fun and experience-oriented you can make your introduction of firearms to a young child, the greater success you will have.
Young depends on the child, not a specific age. Conclusion: A young child can be an ideal student of lifetime lessons, provided the education is presented the right way.
Outdoor play is an essential part of a child’s development. Conclusion: The preferred introduction of young children to firearms should take place in an open, outdoor environment.
Fun is important, but just as important is understanding how your child prefers to learn.
DETERMINING LEARNING TYPE
It is generally agreed that children can be divided into three different types of learning styles. Those three styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Children who are visual learners rely mostly on their sight and observation. They will generally prefer to see things in written form, quite often they use things such as pictures, graphical representations, and other types of visual learning tools. Overall, most young people remember things better by seeing something written.
If you are teaching a youth that is a visual learner, an excellent and helpful tool to have with you is a notebook and pen or even a small dry erase board for doing things like drawing proper sight alignment, using descriptive words and writing important things like the four cardinal rules of gun safety so that they can be seen.
Youth who are more auditory in their learning retain knowledge best by listening. They prefer to have things demonstrated, watching videos, observing someone speaking and engaging in discussions. These youth will remember things best through hearing things and, even more so, by saying and repeating things themselves.
A kinesthetic learner is someone who learns best touching, feeling and having a more physical experience in the area in which they are striving to learn. These children will remember best by writing things down, physically handling, touching and demonstrating with the firearm, and by doing interactive activities like role-plays and active practice.
You want to identify what type of learner you have by both effective questioning and observation. Watch your children carefully and note some of their preferred behaviors.
More and more manufacturers are adding “child-sized” firearms to their lineup. Choosing the right first firearm is about what works and what fits.
Most visual learners are observed spending time doodling, drawing, and manipulating graphical representations, and are drawn to picture, computer-driven or video Learning experiences.
Many auditory learners will speak aloud to themselves and read things that they are trying to learn out loud, therefore enhancing their retention of the information.
A kinesthetic learner will often prefer to learn things by writing them down, or taking an active part. You may observe them taking notes on things regardless of whether or not they refer to them later on. They also tend to try and figure things out rather than reading through long and tedious directions.
RECOMMENDED FIREARMS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
My recommendations for introducing a young child to firearms is a youth-sized, lead pellet-firing, medium velocity air rifle or a special youth-sized, single-shot .22-caliber rifle similar to offerings from Cricket Firearms and Savage’s “Rascal” line and, more specifically, using the air rifle first, and then graduating to the .22.
The reason for this is threefold:
A medium velocity air rifle and a “micro” sized .22 are still powerful enough to use for the demonstration of power described later in chapter 10, giving hands-on opportunity to learn how dangerous a firearm can be if used improperly.
An air rifle may be effectively used at home, both inside and outside, allowing for more frequent opportunity for both participation and learning - something demonstrated as important in young children’s ability to learn.
Ammunition for both is very inexpensive, so your child can participate as much and as long as they want without you worrying about affordability.
BEFORE YOU START YOUR INSTRUCTION WITH FIREARMS, REGARDLESS OF AGE…
It is an undisputed fact that we live in a right-handed world. If you have any doubts, just pick up any pair of scissors out there and try to cut with them left-handed. We are such a right-hand dominant society that we even drive on the right side of the road. The vast majority of Americans and, therefore, children that you will have the opportunity to introduce to firearms will be right-handed.
Some won’t be.
For left-handed shooters, the good news is that there are now more options than ever for them in bolt-action and semi-automatic firearm choices. The bad news is that the options are still rather limited, and most often call him at a slightly premium cost due to their much lower sales volume compared to right-handed firearms.
The best news? When dealing strictly with an introduction to firearms, quite often the difference will be negligible and rather easy to overcome.
Fortunately, most rifle and shotgun stocks made and sold in the United States are of a straight design. That is, there is no cast (a degree of offset to the left or right side from a straight line to more easily align the proper sight picture) that would further complicate the ability to obtain a good sight picture with a weapon.
Therefore, if a left-handed child needs to use a right-handed firearm, they will be able to acquire the proper sight alignment with no more or less effort than their right-handed counterparts.
Here are some tips to avoid frustration should you have a left-handed shooter.
Buy or borrow a left-handed firearm
When shooting a semi-automatic long gun such as a shotgun or rifle, the largest inconvenience to the left-handed shooter is that the empty cartridges will eject from the right side across their body and more in their view than a right-handed shooter firing the same firearm. This issue is also the case with almost every semi-automatic handgun out there. For a left-handed shooter, a revolver eliminates this problem.
When firing a bolt-action rifle, however, there is the added complication of the bolt handle being opposite the side of their free hand.
Notice that the bolt of the rifle action is opposite the hand that is supposed to work the action.
In order to work/cycle the action on a right-handed, bolt-action rifle, someone shooting left-handed is required to reach back towards themselves to lift the bolt handle on the right side, cycle it back and forth, push it back down into the locked position, and then move the strong hand over and around the gun stock to reach the grip and trigger area. This creates a great deal of extra motion and work, but I have seen left-handed shooters who have shot right-handed, bolt-action rifles their entire lives conquer this challenge very, very rapidly. Ideally, a left-handed person should shoot a bolt-action firearm that has the bolt on the left side of the gun.
An additional concern with left-handed shooters is that the safety mechanism on right-handed firearms is, appropriately, located on the right side. For a lefty, that is backwards.
Left-handed firearms have the safety located to be operated from left to right or ambidextrously on the rear of the firearm action above the grip.
An over/under shotgun can eliminate the issue of a left-handed shooter having to shoot a right-handed gun.
Use an over/under or single-shot shotgun, or buy a Browning BPS
Over/under and single-shot shotguns have no ejection port that throws out an empty hull. To remove the empty case, the gun must be opened and the cartridge(s) are either manually removed by pulling them out with your fingers, or ejected out by a spring-loaded ejection mechanism.
In addition, the safety is located on the top of the grip area, immediately to the rear of the action, rendering it ambidextrous.
The Browning BPS is unique in that it ejects all empty cartridges to the bottom of the firearm (an advantage when cleaning up!) and contains the safety mechanism on top of the grip, immediately to the rear of the action, similar to an over/under or single-shot. (Note: the Ithaca model 37 also is a bottom-ejecting shotgun, if you can find one. They have stopped and started production numerous times over the years.)
Note: I am not a fan of single-shot, exposed hammer shotguns. More about that in Chapter 9, choosing the right gear.
Buy a right-handed firearm and pay a gunsmith to reverse the safety
Sometimes, you can find such great deals on used, youth-sized firearms that it may be worth your while to buy a firearm that fits your child and pay a gunsmith to reverse the safety - a simple process making the safety located to the front or rear of the trigger guard turn on and off by pushing from the left side to the right, rather than from the right to the left. This is often only a minor inconvenience, but correcting it is something that enhances safety and that I recommend.
DETERMINING EYE DOMINANCE
The proper and effective use of a firearm requires the use of your entire body, and one of the most important body parts used in shooting is your eyes. After all, we can’t shoot what we can’t see!
In addition, and with the only exceptions being the use of a laser or telescopic sight (something that is not recommended for introduction to firearms), your child will need to be able to properly align the front and rear sights, or in the case of a shotgun be able to properly sight along the top of the barrel and see the front bead.
Because of this, knowing which is their dominant eye is essential.
Just as most people are right-hand or left-hand dominant, almost everyone will have a dominant eye that they use more often, even though we all have bifocal vision. One of the ways to determine both hand and eye dominance is a quick, simple game that also includes a fun safety lesson.
Remember, we never, ever, ever point a gun at anything we do not want to shoot or kill. The only exception to that rule is the “finger gun.”
I make my own finger gun and pretend to have it holstered at my side.
Then I shout, “Draw,” and have them aim their fingers at me.
This does two things almost immediately. First, a child will almost always use their dominant hand to perform this exercise (but not always). Second, by standing in front of them I can most often determine which eye is their dominant eye.
The majority of the time I will have a child or a group of children pointing at me with their right hand and either have their left eye closed or at least sighting their finger gun at me with their right eye. Some will have their left hands out, sighting with their left eye.
Then, there are the select few…
WHAT IS “CROSS EYE DOMINANCE”?
Cross eye dominance is when someone has the opposite dominant eye to their dominant hand.
This occurs when a right-handed person is left-eye dominant, or a left-handed person is right-eye dominant. These children will most often be easy to spot, as during the finger gun test they will have their right hand out but be clearly aiming with their left eye. If they try to am a long gun, such as a rifle, most often they will bring the gun up to their right side and try to put their left cheek on the stock or at least turn their head to the right to use their left eye (and opposite if left-handed).
Most children will aim their finger gun with their dominant hand and their dominant eye.
You will want to further evaluate these children with a more specific test of eye dominance to verify your observations. To do so, have the child reach out with both hands in front of them and create a window using their index finger and thumb approximately two inches across. Then, choose an object for them to center in that window with both eyes open.
Ask the child to not move their head or hands at all and to close what you believe to be their non-dominant eye. The object should still be viewable to them inside their window if that is, in fact, their dominant eye.
Next, to confirm eye dominance, have them open their closed eye, sight at the same object, the same way, with both eyes open and then close their dominant eye. The object should move out of their sight.
In young children, you will most often see them move their head or hands at this point in order to regain their sight picture. Older children should be able to tell you that the object has moved.
By making a “window” with their hands and focusing on an object, you can confirm which is a child’s dominant eye.
If the child is, in fact, cross eye dominant, you will have a few challenges to deal with right away.
DEALING WITH CROSS EYE DOMINANCE
If you have a child that is cross eye dominant, there are two ways that you can handle their introduction of firearms.
1) Have them shoot with their dominant eye rather than their dominant hand.
This means that a right-handed shooter that is left-eye dominant will shoot left-handed, and a left-handed shooter that is right-eye dominant will learn to shoot right-handed.
Fortunately, if this is an initial introduction, the child will likely adapt to the initial, not as comfortable position with it becoming easier in each successive session. If they are unable to adapt easily, you may want to train their non-dominant eye.
2) Train their non-dominant eye.
Have the child shoot with one eye open or, preferably, use a piece of tape on the dominant eye side of their shooting protection to obscure the vision in the dominant eye.
This is the preferred method for introduction. With safety being the number one concern, it is easier for a child to maintain control of a firearm with their dominant hand being used.
THE “EDDIE EAGLE PROGRAM”
For young children, I highly recommend the Eddie Eagle program. This effective education tool can be introduced in a non-threatening situation and specifically doesn’t even include guns in the criteria. From the NRA Eddie Eagle program website:
The NRA Eddie Eagle Program
The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program teaches children in pre-K through third grade four important steps to take if they find a gun. These steps are presented by the program’s mascot, Eddie Eagle, in an easy-to-remember format consisting of the following simple rules:
If you see a gun:
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.
Begun in 1988, The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has reached more than 26 million children - in all 50 states. This program was developed through the combined efforts of such qualified professionals as clinical psychologists, reading specialists, teachers, curriculum specialists, urban housing safety officials, and law enforcement personnel.
Anyone may teach The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, and NRA membership is not required. The program may be readily incorporated into existing school curriculum, taught in a one- to five-day format, and used to reach both levels or simply one or two grades. Materials available through this program are: student workbooks, seven-minute animated DVD, instructor guides, brochures, and student reward stickers. Program materials are also available in Spanish.
The NRA is committed to helping keep America’s young children safe. In efforts to do so, we offer our program at a nominal fee. Schools, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, daycare centers, and libraries may be eligible to receive grant funding to defray program costs. Grant funding is available in many states to these groups to cover the cost of all program curriculum materials.
The purpose of the Eddie Eagle Program isn’t to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children. The program makes no value judgments about firearms, and no firearms are ever used in the program. Like swimming pools, electrical outlets, matchbooks and household poison, they’re treated simply as a fact of everyday life. With firearms found in about half of all American households, it’s a stance that makes sense.
Eddie Eagle is never shown touching a firearm, and he does not promote firearm ownership or use. The program prohibits the use of Eddie Eagle mascots anywhere that guns are present. The Eddie Eagle Program has no agenda other than accident prevention - ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun. The program never mentions the NRA. Nor does it encourage children to buy guns or to become NRA members. The NRA does not receive any appropriations from Congress, nor is it a trade organization. It is not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition.