Current events over the past few years have made many families rethink their family safety plans. As we have seen, record gun sales are the results of millions of people purchasing their first firearm. If you recently made the choice to purchase a firearm for home or self-defense, it may spur questions from your children or you may be looking for how to best introduce your children to a new gun in the home.
If your children have questions about why you chose to purchase a firearm, it’s best not to lay out your rationale since the answers may worry the children about the potential for a home invasion or emergency situation. Instead, simply state that a new firearm is being added to your family’s safety plan. For example, say “It’s something I decided to get to keep us safe, just like we have seat belts in our cars, and a first aid kit in the bathroom, and a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. It’s one of our safety tools.”
Then immediately introduce your children to the safety rules.
Gun Safety Rules for Parents
There are Rules of Gun Safety that must be followed 100% of the time when manipulating a firearm. When the Rules are followed accidents can be minimized. Being a gun owner means that you have made a commitment to knowing these Rules and living them. Parents must always model responsible behavior to reinforce the importance of thoughtful, serious, safe gun handling whenever the firearm is in view.
Gun Safety Rules for Children
With children there are additional rules that they need to know in case they come across a firearm in the absence of a parent or trusted adult. A child who does not know what a firearm is or what to do with one if they find one is most likely going to either injure themselves or someone else. It is critical to teach your children the rules if they find a firearm.
Whenever your child sees a gun, he or she must:
Tell a grown up.
If you’re new to gun ownership you may be apprehensive to follow an NRA program because you may be unfamiliar with the NRA and its divisions, other than the ILA, its lobbying arm. However, the NRA’s The Eddie Eagle GunSafe program is one of the best child gun safety programs available. It has a diverse and inclusive cast of characters, coloring books, videos, and program materials that make learning fun.
The video below makes it easy to teach your kids the rules, and has a song that makes the rules memorable.
You can also look into programs like the Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation that holds classes for kids to learn these safety rules. They even go a step further to use Nerf and airsoft guns to teach important safe gun-handling habits. They also work with parents to have discussions about video games to make sure that games are age appropriate, and that children understand the difference between real-life violence and video game violence, so young kids know that what happens in a game stays in the game. Kids S.A.F.E. also has an anti-bullying campaign that generally addresses attitudes and safety.
Discussions with your Children
Having open conversations about guns with your children may help to eliminate the mystique of the firearm and gives you the opportunities to reinforce safety often. Talk with your children by asking opened-ended questions on safety, firearm safety, the rules for firearms, and what your children should do when they see a gun in an unsupervised situation. Any rules you set for your own child should also apply to family members and friends who visit the home.
Julianna Crowder, Founder of AG & AG, introduced her children to the Eddie Eagle program when they were 4 years old. “As our boys grew up, we stepped up our conversation with them on safety and proper etiquette — all of the stuff we, as instructors, teach our adult students,” she says. When they brought a new gun into the home, she would gather her children around the kitchen table, where Julianna or her husband would demonstrate that it was unloaded and in a safe condition, and they would discuss the firearm’s features, function, and purpose. After the show-n-tell was over, the firearm was properly stored away. Julianna credits this family activity with her son knowing and following the rules when a friend showed him a gun.
Your firearm will be a part of the family’s lifestyle, so it’s not a one-and-done discussion. As a parent, you will need to remind your children about the safety rules on a regular basis. Address your family emergency plan like any other safety plan, including fire drill or severe weather drill. By knowing the rules and having a plan, your children can have age-appropriate guidance to keep them safe.