Let’s Stop The Stigma – Kids and Guns

Way back when there was a stigma against talking to your children about topics like sex. What happened? There was an increase in teenage pregnancies and the transfer of sexually transmitted diseases. Is this still the prevailing thought? No. Because we realized that if we didn’t talk to our kids about topics like sex, or smoking, or alcohol they were going to find out for themselves, and a lot of the time there would be life-long consequences to them having to “figure it out” by themselves.

So why, do we still feel this way about talking to kids about guns? Do we really need our kids learning about guns by themselves? No way. Ever see the way a child picks up a gun? Their natural instinct, as probably was yours even as an adult – without any instruction, is to pick it up with their finger on the trigger. We all know this is a no-no, and we all know this can lead to disastrous results.

Your kids will find your guns

It is a known fact that 75% of kids who live in houses with guns know where they are kept. The question isn’t, “if” but, “when” your kids will find your guns because kids are a very nosy bunch who are naturally inquisitive and very creative as to where they think to look. Maybe you think, “They’ll never find it where I’ve hidden it” and you’d be dead wrong. I didn’t grow up with guns in the house. In fact, the first time I shot one was in boot camp. But I was a typical (maybe not so typical) kid and I was home alone (or with my brother) and my parents went out for a while and it was around Christmas or one of our birthdays I looked everywhere. Some stuff I wish I didn’t find. But it got to to the point where my parents kept our presents at work until a couple of days before Christmas or birthday and were already wrapped.

When kids find guns and something inevitably bad happens, after the shock wears off the question is always, “How could this have happened?”

As I’ve said before kids are naturally inquisitive. They’re sponges and they yearn for information. So don’t stigmatize guns to them – it’ll just make them more curious. Get them into a class like the youth class we teach, or take them shooting sometime – after you’ve gone over all the safety rules with them.

Teach kids the sing along song

There’s a song a lot of gun-owning parents teach their kids so the little ones know what to do if they see a gun—at their own house or anyone’s house. The NRA has a fantastic program which we use part of in our youth class featuring Eddie Eagle and the words are simply “Stop. Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown up.”

This rule obviously applies at your own home, but it’s also helpful for the kids when they’re at others’ homes where guns reside.

What are our responsibilities as gun owners?

State laws vary, but Illinois law (720 ILCS 5/24-9) Section (a) states: Except as provided in subsection (c), it is unlawful for any person to store or leave, within premises under his or her control, a firearm if the person knows or has reason to believe that a minor under the age of 14 years who does not have a Firearm Owners Identification Card… is likely to gain access to the firearm without the lawful permission of the minor’s parent, guardian, or person having charge of the minor, and the minor causes death or great bodily harm with the firearm, unless the firearm is:
A. Secured by a device or mechanism, other than the firearm safety, designed to render a firearm temporarily inoperable; or
B. Placed in a securely locked box or container; or
C. Placed in some other location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure from a minor under the age of 14 years.

A person who violates this Section is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor and shall be fined not less than $1,000. A second or subsequent violation of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor.

This section of the law does NOT apply in these cases:
• If the minor under 14 years of age gains access to a firearm and uses it in a lawful act of self-defense or defense of another; or
•The firearm was obtained by a minor under the age of 14 because of an unlawful entry of the premises by the minor or another person.

Teach kids the Universal Firearm Safety Rules

For some of you this may seem like common sense, but teaching kids a healthy respect for guns should include a healthy understanding of how to handle guns safely. Of course this should include some type of high-quality training, but at the very least they should know these universal rules:

  • Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re going to shoot.
  • Do not point the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
  • Always know what’s beyond your target.

Don’t make guns forbidden

As adults we all know by now that as soon as we tell kids they can’t do something it just makes them want to do it more. So if your kids ask to see your gun or want to learn more about them the answer should always be, “Yes” but only under your direct supervision. By dispelling rumors and actually teaching them proper gun safety, as well as instilling in them proper respect and yes, fear, of that gun it will help make them more responsible.

What else can I do?

Run safety audits on your kids to make sure they’re actually following the rules as you’ve laid out. Cameras are cheap and very accessible by now. Leave a gun out, obviously without a magazine or anything in the chamber, and see what they do. Monitor that on a camera. Whatever their response, use it as a teaching moment.

Tools for locking up your guns at home

I don’t like cable locks. If you’re displaying guns at a gun show, cable locks might do the trick. But for home defense, they’re just not realistic. The little keys get lost, and you don’t want to go searching for little keys in the dark when you need your gun.

Touch safes are good, quick options. Some of these small safes will open with a fingerprint or a real quick access code so you can quickly pop it open and rock and roll with your gun.

On-gun locking devices. A chamber lock is potentially a good option that allows you to keep your gun under a bed or in some other close location without having to box it up, which is especially useful when it comes to something like an AR-15. These devices require a code of sorts to take them off, so they’re fairly secure and quick to disengage.

Gun safes. And of course there’s the tried and true gun safe where you can maintain your arsenal in a safe and secure manner while also keeping equipment accessible when you need it.

As always, we highly recommend that whatever you choose to do in protecting your family,  you acquire the skills and safety protocols through high-quality training.

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