Teach kids safe firearm handling at young age – well before the weapon is loaded
“Is that a real gun?” asked my seven-year-old grandson, Michael.
He was pointing at a single-shot H&R .22 rifle I had propped up alongside my basement workbench. Three of my seven grandkids had come to visit and I had left this one firearm out of lockup, somewhat visible, on purpose, in case one of the kids asked what Michael had just asked.
All of our grandkids know that Grandpa is a hunter and shooter and owns firearms. They know their Dads, my sons, do as well, along with my daughter, Sarah, and son-in-law, Mike. As the grandkids are growing and becoming more aware, they are being introduced slowly, carefully, and watchfully to a world they inevitably will experience – the world of firearms. They only question is whether they will learn of and experience that world the right, safe way, or the careless dangerous way. Our family has made the right choice, the only choice.
In this case with Michael, I replied that yes, the rifle was one of Grandpa’s real guns. “Do you want to see it?” I asked, know his young curiosity already had answered that question. I went over and carefully picked up the little rifle, cautioning as I did that he and his brother and sister, should never, ever, touch a gun without being told by an adult to do so. He nodded. I broke the action and showed him the empty chamber to assure him that it was unloaded.
I allowed Michael to “shoulder” the rifle, in part to show that it clearly still was “too big.” But I told him that when he grew up some more, Grandpa and his Dad would help him to learn how to be safe with it and shoot it. Michael was satisfied, and you could tell he was looking forward to the day, another day, when he was big enough to join a responsible, mature club — the club of safe shooters.
With that, he ran outside to play. End of subject, curiosity satisfied. None of the kids so much as came near that little .22 the rest of their stay. I was not surprised. We repeatedly have taken steps to take the mystery out of firearms, erasing the notion that somehow that they somehow are going to magically load themselves and shoot someone. The latter is an obviously irrational fear, but I have seen it displayed by some adults totally unfamiliar with firearms, whose only education with them has been overblown, over-sensationalized media accounts of criminal use and careless accident. But perception is reality; hence the need for firearms education.
All of which brings me to highly recommend a new educational video, “How to Talk to Your Kids about Firearm Safety,” by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). It stars champion shooter and mother of two, Julie Golob, who urges parents to have “the talk” about firearm safety with their kids sooner rather than later, and provides tips for how to have a helpful discussion.
“Too often, children don’t know what to do if they find a gun,” said Steve Sanetti, President and CEO of NSSF, which developed and sponsors the Project ChildSafe firearm safety education program. “This video opens a door for honest conversation and empowers parents to be the authority on gun safety for their kids, whether they have guns in their homes or not.”
The video is way to start positive and constructive conversations by encouraging discussion rather than lecture, and it helps parents responsibly demystify the subject of guns.
“As a mother, I know full well how challenging this conversation can be,” Golob said. “It’s crucial that parents set an example and teach their kids about firearm safety so children don’t learn about guns solely from what their friends say or what they see on video games and TV.”
Golob notes the importance of adults having gun safety discussions with young people, emphasizing that education on responsible safety and storage is the number one way to prevent firearm accidents in the home. The video has two sections, one for talking with younger children, the other for talking to older kids and teens.
“How to Talk to Your Kids about Gun Safety” is available—and shareable—online at projectchildsafe.org and on the NSSF YouTube page . NSSF is also promoting the video with its members, law enforcement partners, local communities, conservation groups and other supporters, starting with a national launch in partnership with Sportsman’s Warehouse, which streamed the video in all of its stores across the country.
“Talking to kids about gun safety is not something to be put off or ignored—it’s an essential part of responsible gun ownership,” Sanetti added. “This video supports our industry’s “Own It? Respect It. Secure It” initiative, and we hope firearms owners everywhere watch it and share it with their communities.”
The video expands Project ChildSafe’s safety education resources that encourage safe firearms handling and secure storage by gun owners and their families. The video complements such program resources as the Safe Storage Options Infographic and the Parent-Child Safety Pledge. Since 1999, Project ChildSafe has worked with more than 15,000 law enforcement departments throughout the United States to distribute educational resources and free firearm safety kits, which include a gun lock, to their communities. To date, the program has given away more than 36 million safety kits and gun locks in all fifty states and the five U.S. territories.
NSSF has hit a home run with this new resource. Use it. Tell others about it.
Click HERE to see the video.