I own firearms. I enjoy firearms. I support the Second Amendment in a very literal interpretation of it.
Naturally, since we own firearms, we talk to our kids about them. We discuss safety. We discuss what to do if you see a firearm.
In our home, our firearms are stored safely, according to a variety of precautions that most people concede are responsible and fairly well-conceived. And yet, I too am affected by a fear that my kids will be involved in an incident.
Consider these stories:
Just yesterday, a real gun, loaded with real, live ammunition was found in a toy aisle in a Target in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The first weekend of our Spring Break this year, a 7-year-old girl was shot and killed by another child in Gaston, SC.
In Easley, SC, a woman was shot and killed by a 6-year-old boy.
And these are just stories from *my area*. All of them have occurred since April. All of them involved (or potentially involved) children. And the real kicker--these aren't even all of them, just the ones that I could remember best.
Even if you don't "believe" in guns (they are real, I hate this description), teaching your kids about firearms and firearm safety could very well save their (or someone else's) life.
Since firearms are, in fact, all around us, a basic understanding of them is an important life skill. Even though I know our guns are properly secured, I have no idea about my neighbors' homes. I have no idea about the homes that my son might visit. I don't know what those children are being taught or how their parents feel about firearm safety and security.
Neither do you.
Here's a few topics that I would recommend every parent cover.
Let your child feel a real firearm.
Believe me, it probably won't be difficult to find one. Real guns feel different from toy ones. Let your kids feel (in a safe controlled environment) the weight and texture. Talk about the difference between it and plastic.
This way, if your child inadvertently comes into contact with a firearm, they know that it's not something to be played with. It's not a toy.
Talk about what guns do.
And I don't mean just the bad things. Explain that guns are used for a multitude of reasons, like hunting, but that they can also be used for bad things. This way, hopefully, your child comes to respect them, not fear them. Regardless of what your feelings are, no one should live in fear. A healthy, cautious respect is absolutely something to instill, though.
Talk about what you should do if you see a firearm.
Tell a grown up. Don't touch it.
Every child should also know three basic rules about gun safety, whether they are going to be shooting or not:
- Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
- Always behave like a firearm is loaded.
- And, most importantly, do not ever point the muzzle at something you do not intend to destroy entirely.
I know the last point is just a restating of the first point, but it's important to state it in different ways because it is so incredibly important.
If your child--or another--does indeed decide to handle a firearm, despite your best efforts, these rules could encourage them to at least avoid a tragedy.
Watch your language.
I've seen the "do not ever point the muzzle at something you do not intend to destroy entirely" worded as "you do not intend to kill". Not every child really understands the concept of death, dead, dying or kill though. Put it in terms that your child can understand. They know what destroy means. They've probably destroyed a few beloved toys in their lifetimes, and it's easy to explain that things that are destroyed are broken forever. They don't come back. This is incredibly key in discussions about gun safety.
Giving your kids a good grasp of firearm safety is, in my humble opinion, and honest-to-goodness life and death situation. You can only control what goes on in your home. Give your kids information that they can use if they encounter such things in other ways.
And yes, this can be applied regardless of whether you "agree" with firearms or not. It's easy to work in your family's values regarding this subject as you go. It's easy to say, "Some families have these, but ours don't, because we believe XYZ", and still give your children information that could save their lives.
Firearm safety is important for everyone, not just gun owners.