When it comes to gun safety, educating your children and keeping all firearms out of harm’s way are a couple of the best forms of protection. Case in point: More than 4 in 10 American adults have a gun in their home, according to the Pew Research Center. Thus, even if you don’t possess a firearm in your home, the parents of your children’s friends likely do.
Furthermore, teaching your children the correct way to handle and store guns can help protect and keep them safe. But even if don’t plan on ever owning a gun, your kids need to know what to do if they come in contact with any type of firearm. Here are three essential things every child should know about gun safety.
1. Safety Procedures for Youngsters Handling Guns
Before children are old enough and mature enough to handle firearms safely, they’ll need to know what to do — and perhaps, more importantly, what not to do — if another family member or the parents of one of their friends own a gun. But don’t just take our word for it; instead, take it from the experts themselves. The National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program recommends teaching children and teens a four-step approach to avoiding gun accidents. So what’s the first thing a child or teen should do when they find a gun? It may seem obvious, but simply stopping in their tracks and remembering not to touch the firearm before quickly alerting a parent or other trusted adult is paramount to their and others’ safety.
2. Safe Gun Handling Practices
As Benjamin Franklin once opined, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In that same vein, as parents, make it a point to teach your children safe gun handling practices at an early age — and continue reinforcing that message over and over.
Plus, knowing teens are likely counting down the months, days and hours until they’re able to handle a gun, ensuring they’re prepared will keep them safe, especially if you plan to teach them how to shoot or hunt. But even if you don’t plan to teach them to shoot, knowing how to handle a gun safely can help keep them safe if they or their friends come across a firearm.
Now, as any gun enthusiast can tell you, the most basic rule of gun safety is to always point the muzzle of a weapon in a safe direction and away from people. This includes teaching children not to point a gun at their leg or feet when holding it pointed down. While pointing a gun in other directions, children should always make sure no one is in harm’s way.
As a rule of thumb, a gun should never be pointed at anything that is not an intended target. Other important basic principles include keeping guns unloaded when not in use, treating all guns as though they’re loaded and dangerous (even if the safety is on), and never shooting unless you’re sure no one is in the direction of the shot.
While children generally need to be at least 5 to 7 years old before they can start applying these rules, you can start teaching them at a young age by applying them to toy guns. But make sure to be consistent with your approach. For example, if your child violates a gun safety rule with their toy gun, take the gun away and lock it in storage — as you would with a real firearm. Ultimately, this will instill in them the lesson that handling guns is a serious matter and that guns must be handled with care.
3. Proper Gun Storage
Part of handling guns with care includes making sure to follow some important safe gun storage rules. In particular, guns should always be checked over to ensure they’re unloaded before being put away. Meantime, unlocked guns should be stored in a locked container or an area that’s inaccessible to small children or intruders, such as a storage case, cabinet or safe.
But no matter where you purchase a firearm, suppliers also sell a number of storage equipment options to keep firearms safe and secured. For additional safety, gun-locking devices can be purchased to prevent the trigger from being pulled. However, like any lock, gun locks can be foiled. Thus, for maximum safety, your best bet is to store any ammunition away from firearms.
Positive Reinforcement Leads to Good Decision-Making
Reinforcing good habits can shape your child’s life far more than you may realize, particularly when it comes to gun safety. Thus, training youngsters to avoid guns, teaching teens basic firearms skills, and demonstrating proper gun storage are just three of several gun safety lessons children to impart to younger generations. By teaching your child these lessons, you’ll lower their risk of being injured and, more importantly, will instill in them the know-how to handle firearms responsibly and safely.