You and your children are presented with mixed messages about guns on a daily basis. Whether it is through the news, in a movie or cartoon, at school, on the street, or in the home, the messages vary and are often confusing. In the news, you and your children see shootings of innocents as well as of perpetrators who are ready to cause bodily harm. On television, cartoons show characters being shot just to have them reappear in the next episode, or moments later in the same show! School shootings, mall shootings, drive-by shootings, and shootings for self-protection — guns have been part of American culture since the beginning.
One dilemma for parents is when to begin addressing the seriousness of guns with children. Often children are given toy guns with no rules or regulations on how to use them. Some are presented with bb and pellet guns for outdoor sport. Some simply use their fist and finger to mimic a gun. Some are told repeatedly that guns are bad, but are given no explanations.
Whether you are a hunter, a professional who must carry a weapon, or a homeowner who desires self-protection, when children are around, the issue of gun safety must be handled from the time they can stand and walk.
When they learn how to scoot across the floor, children get into any and everything within reach. It is natural curiosity, coupled with the desire to be grown up, that drives them. It is the way they learn. From scooting and crawling, they progress to walking, running, and climbing while their curiosity grows exponentially.
A second dilemma for parents is where to store weapons. Children are observant. You put anything into a drawer or cabinet while they are around, and they take note. As soon as an opportunity arises, they begin checking out all drawers and cabinets, even the ones you have told them, “No!” when they go near.
A weapon in a drawer or cabinet or on a shelf is not protected from those curious minds and hands. You must have a locked box or safe in which to store any and all weapons and ammunition … and you must keep the key in a secure place. It is important to let your children know that the guns are locked up for everyone’s safety.
What Do You Tell Children About Guns?
Be honest. Guns are designed to scare, threaten, frighten, and yes, kill.
It is helpful to actually show them weapons you have and give a very brief explanation of why you have them and how they work. Sit with younger children and let them draw a picture of a gun while you explain the various parts and how the gun operates. As they grow older demonstrate how to load and unload a gun properly as well as how to clean a gun. You are building a sense of responsibility into their thought and action patterns.
Ask your children to tell you who carry guns. You might be surprised at how observant younger children are when it comes to this issue. Ask your children why they think certain people carry a weapon. Discuss that police, highway patrol, sheriffs, soldiers, and guards are trained in the proper use of firearms because they know how dangerous guns can be.
It is very important that you occasionally reinforce the “gun talk” with children of all ages. You know that as children grow, their attitudes adjust. You want to keep the “gun attitude” steady with brief conversations about the dangers, and usefulness, of guns.
… and, you must remember: If a gun is within their reach, a child will reach for it.