Children and firearms. Those are two words that rarely go together without making people cringe. Shock and awe tend to ensue when someone finds out that both reside in the same home. There is a mentality of “hide the firearm and don’t tell the children.” This way of thinking, however, is a recipe for disaster. Children are curious creatures. If there is something that is labeled “taboo,” they want to know why and often will try to find out. Should they somehow stumble across a firearm, they will more than likely try to learn what they can about it through hands-on experience. This is a gamble that no one should take. Fortunately knowledge is empowering. Firearms can reside safely in the same home as children, provided there is a responsible adult to teach the children about firearms.
Responsible gun ownership requires us to take the time to not only educate ourselves, but also our children. All children should be educated, even if they live in a home with no guns. You might not have firearms in your home. Your child, however, might visit a friend or relative who does. Proper education and respect for firearms can go a long way toward averting a potential tragedy. We must honestly ask ourselves this. Does your child, or a child you love, know what to do if he or she happens upon a firearm?
It is paramount that we “de-mystify” guns. It is normal and natural for children to want to pretend to have a gun. In the realm of make-believe, they are often cowboys or police officers. To them guns are cool, fun and powerful. This type of play is natural and I would not discourage it. It is imperative, however, to educate them about what a gun really is and what it is capable of doing. We must replace their awe of firearms with absolute respect. It is not productive to drive a fear of firearms into children. Fear is paralyzing. Should they come into a dangerous situation where one is presented, fear will do nothing in helping them to know what to do. Fearful respect, however, is quite different.
Growing up you loved your parents and knew your parent loved you. They were your heroes and protectors. You knew that no matter what happened, they would be there for you and love you. You also knew that if you did something wrong, they wouldn’t be happy. I’m certain we can all think back to those moments where we did something and knew we would be in trouble. Assuming it’s a healthy home, we were never paralyzed with the fear that we might die at their hands for messing up. It was fearful respect we felt. Yes, they loved us but they were also disciplinarians for our benefit. That same type of fearful respect should accompany firearms. Children should understand the concept of how they work. They also need to be educated on what they are capable of doing. Once this happens, the firearms are de-mystified and respected. The children will be able to understand the stark difference of what they do in imaginary play with toy guns and what to do when they see a real firearm.
If you own a firearm take your children to the range with you. Allow them to see the firearm in action. This is a wonderful place to begin to educate them. At the range you can show them proper handling of the gun. Emphasize the basics of how to hold it, how never to place your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to shoot, to keep the muzzle pointed down, etc. You can also instill these principles in your home and I would urge you to do so. Reiterating what is taught at home while at the range is very valuable. While at the range, they will see what the firearm is capable of in action, driving home a deeper respect while taking away the mystery and curiosity. Hands-on learning experience is invaluable.
Guidelines and rules need to be taught and clearly understood. Throughout our schooling we did multiple tornado and fire drills. “Stop, drop and roll” is an ingrained mantra we never think about, however it comes to mind instantly when we find ourselves in such a situation. Explaining just a few times is not enough. The rules of firearms need to be instilled and reiterated over and over. Just as “stop, drop and roll” did, eventually the rules will become a part of the child’s make-up. I believe this is where people become a little lost. What are the rules for children? How do we teach them on their level? The NRA has a wonderful program for this, the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program.
“The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program is a gun accident-prevention program that seeks to help parents, law enforcement, community groups and educators navigate a topic paramount to our children’s safety. Eddie and his Wing Team are on a mission to help you teach Pre-K through 4th graders what to do if they ever come across a gun.” – NRA Website
Here is a description of one of the Eddie Eagle videos to give you a better idea:
“Eddie Eagle and the Wing Team encounter a gun in a place that they didn’t expect. Eddie helps his friends decide what to do to stay safe by reminding them of his favorite song. The Wing Team makes the right choice, but the members still have some questions about gun safety. They look to adults they trust for answers. Pre-k through fourth-grade children will find this video engaging with its catchy songs, dance moves and entertaining dialogue—but most importantly, they’ll know what to do if they ever come across a gun.”
Researching the program, I was in awe and impressed. It is entertaining and packed full of needed information, brought out in a format children will understand and enjoy. I promise you will not feel like you are watching a giant singing purple dinosaur. It is evident that the NRA spared no expense in producing a quality program for the sake of our children. It is a wonderful way that the rules of gun safety can be instilled into children on their level. Educating children on gun safety is one of the most important things we can do, whether we are gun owners or not. We must never forget that empowering our children with knowledge is the best gift that we could ever bestow to them.
To learn more about Eddie Eagle, go here or check out the August issues of any of the NRA official journals.