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A Parent’s Guide to Gun Safety

Parents play a key role in developing safe practices for children in all activities and endeavors and are ultimately responsible for the behavior and safety of their children. Firearms safety is certainly no different.

When children are young from toddlers to 5 or six years old parents should teach children the lessons taught in the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program. It is a simple and easy to remember message and goes as follows. If you see a gun:

Don’t Touch.
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.

Special Note: Because isolated lessons and concepts can be quickly forgotten, repetition will help children remember standard safety procedures.

Be a Responsible Parent

The degree of safety a child has around any tool such a firearm, any type of cutting equipment like knives, shears, saws or heavy equipment rests squarely on the parents in the home.

Parents who accept the responsibility to learn, practice, and teach gun safety rules will ensure their child’s safety to a much greater extent than those who do not. Parental responsibility does not end, however, when the child leaves the home.

According to federal statistics, there are guns in approximately half of all U.S. households. Even if you do not have a firearm in your home, chances are that someone you know does. You child could come in contact with a gun at a neighbors’ house, when playing with friends, or under other circumstance outside of your control.

That is why it is so very important that your child to know what to do if he or she comes across a handgun or a long gun, and it is up to you as the parent or guardian to provide this instruction. The Eddie Eagle program for children that we offer at Austin’s Tennessee Firearms School and other NRA courses for parents and guardians such as the Home Firearms Safety course, a non-shooting course that teaches the basic knowledge, skills, explains the attitude necessary for the safety with firearms, are available to help parents teach their children safety.

Talk With Your Child About Gun Safety

While there is no specific age to talk with your child about gun safety, a good time to introduce the subject is when he or she shows an interest in firearms. This interest can come from family members, friends, toy guns, video games or television shows and movies. Talking openly and honestly about gun safety with your child is ultimately more effective than just telling the child that guns are bad and ordering him or her to never touch a gun, and leaving it at that. Usually a statement or order like that may simply arouse the child’s natural curiosity and stimulate them to investigate further.

One possible strategy for talking to your children about safety is to first ask what safety means to them and what some of the things they do to be safe are. Topics might include wearing a seatbelt whenever they are in the car, looking both ways and holding hands when crossing the street or wearing a helmet when riding their scooter, skateboard or bike. You may also discuss who your child would consider as a trusted adult whom they could go to in case of an emergency.

After such a broad discussion on safety in general terms, you could bring up firearm safety, the rules for firearms and what your child should do when they see a gun in an when you or another responsible adult is not around.

As with any safety lesson, explaining the rules and answering a child’s questions can help take the mystery away from guns or anything for that matter. Any rules you set for your own child should also apply to family members and friends while they are in your home. This will keep your child from being pressured into showing a gun to visitors.

Pretend vs. Real Life

It is also advisable to discuss gun use in video games, on television and in movies as compared to the serious nature of gun use in real life. Children see characters shot and “killed” with well-documented frequency. When a young child sees the same actor appear in next week’s episode, or another movie or TV show, confusion between entertainment and real life may result. Firearms are often handled carelessly in these outlets.

In many video games, players actively shoot other characters with no personal consequences. The player can simply hit the reset button to bring themselves and other characters back to life. Do not assume that your child knows the difference between being “killed” on TV or in a video game and the reality of gun violence.

If your child has toy guns, you may want to use them to demonstrate safe gun handling and to explain how they differ from genuine firearms. Real guns should be stored so that they are not accessible to children and other unauthorized users.

How and What Should You Teach Your Child About Gun Safety?

If you have decided that your child is NOT ready to be trained in safe gun handling and use, at least teach him or her to follow this simple 4 step rule- If you find a gun:

  1. STOP!
  2. Don’t Touch.
  3. Leave the Area.
  4. Tell an Adult.

The initial steps of “Stop” and “Don’t touch” are the most important. To counter that natural impulse to touch a gun, it is imperative that you impress these steps of the safety message upon your child.

The direction to “Leave the Area” is also essential. Under some circumstance, the area may be understood to be a room if your child cannot physically leave the apartment or house.

“Tell an Adult” emphasizes that children should seek a trustworthy adult, neighbor, relative or teacher if a parent or guardian is not available.

When the Child Gets Older

If you have firearms in the house and plan on training your child to handle a gun then while they are young it would be a good idea to let them go to the shooting range with you; not to let them shoot but to watch you shoot and to even help you clean your firearms after you shoot. Then later as their maturity level rises (somewhere between the ages of 7 and 9 or 10) you may want to let them shoot your gun(s) as you closely supervise them. As they get older get them into an NRA Basic firearms course such as the NRA Basic Pistol, Rifle or Shotgun courses which we teach here at Austin’s Tennessee Firearms School. In these courses, taught by NRA certified firearms instructors they will learn first the basic parts of the firearms, the safety rules for handling firearms, all about ammunition and ammunition safety and the techniques or pieces of the puzzle which must be put together in order to operate a firearm safely, efficiently and effectively, in that order. When you, as a parent or guardian decide a young person is ready, many training opportunities are available. Give us a call at 865.234.7053 and we’ll be happy to assist you in providing the safest, most up to date training for your child.

The Basic Gun Safety Rules

Although there are complete gun safety rules available for specific types of firearm use (hunting and competition, etc.) the following three rules are fundamental or “Cardinal” rules in any situation. Whether or not you own a gun, it is important for all adolescents and adults to know these rules so that you can be safe ant so that you may insist that others follow them, too.

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    Common sense will tell you which direction is the safest depending on your surroundings.
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    When holding a gun, rest your trigger finger outside the trigger guard alongside the gun. This will often be the hardest part for kids to remember.
  3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
    Demonstrate to your child how to check if a gun is loaded and where the safety mechanism is located.

Gun Owners’ Responsibilities

Most states impose some form of legal duty on adults to take reasonable steps to deny access by children to dangerous substances or instruments. It is the individual gun owner’s responsibility to understand and follow all laws regarding gun purchase, ownership, storage, transport, etc. Contact your state police and/or local police for information specific to your state.

Store guns so that they are not accessible to children and other unauthorized users. Gun shops sell a wide variety of safes, cases, and other security devices. While specific security measure may vary, a parent must, in every case, assess the exposure of the firearm and absolutely ensure that it is inaccessible to a child.

This guide is not intended as a complete course in gun safety and is not to be used as a substitute for formal, qualified instruction in the handling, use, or storage of firearms. The guidelines herein should be considered options with which to minimize the chance of an accident occurring in the home. For more information on firearms training programs call 865.234.7053 or look through our “Training” section here on our website website.

Note: Some of the information in this guide is taken from the NRA’s Training department. If you would like more information regarding the NRA and it’s training mission please go to www.nra.org