If you choose to keep a gun in your home, the safety of your children and the children that visit your home is your responsibility and only yours. Guns and your children is a subject you cannot avoid or postpone. If dealing with the issues of guns and children is not one you can take seriously and take the steps necessary to protect them, than do not have a gun in your home. That means the safe storage and use of guns and the safety of your children must be your top priority.
Most states impose some form of legal duty on adults to take reasonable steps to deny access by children to dangerous substances or instruments and guns. As the adult, it is your responsibility to understand and follow all laws regarding gun purchase, ownership, storage, transport, etc. Contact your state police and/or local police for information regarding such laws.
Your choice to accept the responsibility to learn, practice and teach gun safety to your children and to do just that repeatedly, will determine the extent of your children’s safety as a gun owner.
According to federal statistics, there are guns in more than one third of all U.S. households. Whether or not you make the choice to keep a gun in your home, your children will undoubtedly be in one of them. Therefore, educating your children in gun safety is a necessity for all children whether you own one or not.
It is critical for your child to know what to do if he or she encounters a gun anywhere, and it is the your responsibility to provide that training.
Some sobering numbers:
The 2002 edition of Injury Facts from the National Safety Council reports the following statistics (1) :
In 1999, 3,385 children and youth ages 0-19 years were killed with a gun. This includes homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries.
The 3,385 firearms-related deaths for age group 0-19 years breaks down to:
83 for which the intent could not be determined
20 due to legal intervention
Of the total firearms-related deaths:
73 were of children under five years old
416 were children 5-14 years old
2,896 were 15-19 years old
It is important that we also look at how many children and young people are hurt by firearms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 1997, 2,514 children aged 0-14 were non-fatally injured by guns. In the same year, 30,225 young people aged 15-24 sustained nonfatal firearm injuries. These statistics include suicide attempts and both intentional and accidental shootings (2)
Most guns involved in self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries, (that is, in suicides and accidents) came either from the victim’s home or the home of a friend or relative(3).
Parents of teenagers are less likely to store firearms safely (4). This is a big concern, since most firearm injuries happen to teens. Teens are at greater risk of attempting suicide, and a suicide attempt with a gun is likely to be deadly. More than 90% of suicide attempts with a gun are deadly, and teens in homes with firearms are at higher risk for committing suicide (5).
If you have children in your house or children visit your home regularly and you keep firearms, keep the guns locked and unloaded, with the ammunition locked in a separate location. Before your child goes to a friend’s house, you should ask the friend’s parent whether the family has guns in the house, and how they are stored.
You now fully understand the NEED to teach your children about guns and their safety. What do you teach your children and how? Talking openly and honestly about firearm safety with your child is considered more effective than just ordering him or her to “Stay out of the gun closet,” and trusting they will! Such statements may just spark children’s natural curiosity to investigate further. Discussing guns and their use on TV with children is very important as well, as guns are often mishandled and most children are not able to understand the difference between being killed on TV and being killed in real life.
If your child has toy guns, you may want to use them to demonstrate safe gun handling and to explain how they differ from genuine firearms.
You may consider letting your child watch you shoot a cantaloupe, honeydew melon, or watermelon so that they can experience the noise and damage a gun can do. When they are mature enough (possible around eight years of age but only you as the parent can determine when your child is mature enough) teach them how to load and shoot the gun.
Children are curious – that is a fact. Most children, especially younger ones do not have the self-discipline to always follow your instructions. Therefore, I believe that you not only must educate them about the safety issues, but about guns themselves, along with how they work and safe handling.
Leave the Area
Tell an Adult
The NRA has a wonderful children’s gun safety program for children in Pre-K through third grade, The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program. Anyone may teach The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, and NRA membership is not required.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 NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program includes an instructor guide, activity books, poster, and an animated video to explain its four-step safety message. For more information about the program, visit www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie or call (800) 231-0752
The NRA on their website explain these rules as the following:
The initial steps of “Stop” and “Don’t Touch” are the most important. To counter the natural impulse to touch a firearm, it is imperative that you impress these steps of the safety message upon your child.
In today’s society, where adult supervision is not always possible, the direction to “Leave the Area” is also essential. It’s particularly important that children leave the area where the firearm is located to avoid being harmed by someone who doesn’t know not to touch it. A child as young as 3 has the finger strength to pull a trigger. Under some circumstances, area may be understood to be a room if your child cannot physically leave the apartment or house.”Tell an Adult” emphasizes that children should seek a trustworthy adult, neighbor, relative or teacher — if a parent or guardian is not available.
Gun Safety Outside Your Home
Gun safety does not end when your child leaves your home. Your children can still come in contact with a firearm at a neighbor’s house, when playing with friends, or under other circumstances away from home.
Also discuss firearm safety with the parents of friends if your child spends time in their homes. It may feel like an awkward conversation, but the person you ask will likely understand that you only have your child’s safety in mind. If there is a firearm in the friend’s home, you need to decide if it poses a safety risk to your child. If you’re uncomfortable having your child play there, consider offering to host at your house instead.
A Word About BB and Non-powder Guns
Non-powder guns, such as ball-bearing (BB) guns, pellet guns, and paintball guns, are not regulated by the government but can cause serious injury and death.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that children under age 16 not use high-velocity BB guns or pellet guns. And these guns should only be used under the supervision of an adult. Children who have a BB gun, or are likely to come into contact with one, must know to never point it at anyone, including themselves.
Paintball guns are known to cause traumatic eye injuries, so children need to wear protective eye gear. Children should not put caps for toy guns in their pockets because these can ignite due to friction and cause burns and loud noises that can damage hearing.
The purpose of this article, is not to be used as definitive instruction in the teaching of your children about guns and the dangers associated with them. Rather, programs are recommended and you are encouraged to use them as they have been developed by professionals. Also articles and research is provided at the bottom of this page for your further exploration.
The time may come when you or your children and family members want to learn how to handle and shoot a gun safely. In the case of a child, his or her attitude, learning ability, and physical and emotional maturity are some of the factors to be weighed before allowing formal instruction to begin. Only you can determine when your child is mature enough to learn to shoot a gun
Providing instruction in the safe handling, use, and storage of firearms is one of the NRA’s most important functions. Basic Firearm Training Courses(7) taught by over 54,000 NRA Certified Instructors, are offered in every state. A program called “FIRST Steps” (Firearm Instruction, Responsibility, and Safety Training) provides a three-hour orientation to your specific firearm.
(1) National Safety Council. Injury Facts, 2002 Edition. p. 127
(2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Non-fatal and fatal firearm-related injuries-United States 1993-1997. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 1999; 48:1029-1084. Available from URL: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4845a1.htm. Accessed 12/1/08.
(3) Grossman DC, Reay DT, Baker SA. Self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries among children and adolescents: the source of the firearm. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med . 1999; 153:875-8. http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/153/8/875
(4) Johnson RM, Miller M, Vriniotis M, Azrael D, Hemenway D. Are household firearms stored less safely in homes with adolescents?: Analysis of a national random sample of parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Aug;160(8):788-92.
GUN SAFETY RESOURCES FOR PARENTS:
ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON TEACHING YOUR CHILD ABOUT GUNS AND SHOOTING