Does leaving a firearm within reach of your trusted minor children put you in the crosshairs of the judicial system, and is it worth the risk?
How do we square the defense of our families with state laws that might be restricting our responsible children’s ability to get to the gun when it might be needed most?
This question came to mind a couple of months ago when a 14-year-old Phoenix, Arizona teenager retrieved his father’s firearm during a home invasion that occurred while he was babysitting his three younger siblings, ages 8, 10, and 12 respectively. That brave young man successfully used the gun to shoot and gravely wound his attacker. I personally couldn’t be more proud of him!
My general advice is to start as early as possible. By stripping your child of the natural curiosity about guns in general and removing the mystique, you take the first big step in ensuring their overall safety.
In a nutshell, the story unfolded like this: While home alone with his younger siblings, the 14-year-old refused to answer the door to a woman he didn’t recognize. Seconds later he heard violent attempts to get into the house, moved his siblings out of harm’s way, retrieved his father’s handgun, and fired directly at the dirt bag who had decided he wanted whatever was in that house that didn’t belong to him.
We could have been reading about the murder of four kids, ages 8-14 if it wasn’t for the heroic actions of that young man—and more importantly—his ability to access the firearm he subsequently used to stop the criminals. Dare I say that if this incident had occurred in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City or anywhere else with restrictive, unconstitutional firearm laws that the gun hating freaks push for, the outcome would have been much worse and those mayors and gun-haters would have the blood of four children on their hands. Thankfully that wasn’t the case!
Now that you have the background, let’s analyze the event in terms of firearm safety, and balance it with everything that you hear from the mainstream, gun-hating media. Many states (probably yours) have laws in place to keep guns from easy reach of minors. Some of these laws are punishable by what could amount to lengthy prison sentences, should your child access a firearm in violation of the law and use it negligently. As a general rule, I support these types of laws.
For obvious reasons, there are just too many individual laws to address in a single column, so we’ll have to address the bigger picture with a broad brush: how to balance safe storage with life saving access in the event of an emergency. Only you know your children and their level of maturity for their age, and hopefully you are aware of your liabilities and the law in your state should your gun fall into the hands of a child in violation of that law. If not, you had better get educated.
The question of safe storage laws really begins with the overall education of your children regarding firearms and their proper handling. This boils down to personal responsibility and no gun-hating politician or media elitist can paint us all with the same brush, no matter how much they would like to, or believe they can. You know your child and you know when your child has reached a level of maturity that will enable you to educate him or her about firearms by stripping them of their curiosity and putting them on a live-fire range.
My general advice is to start as early as possible. By stripping your child of the natural curiosity about guns in general and removing the mystique, you take the first big step in ensuring their overall safety. The next step is to actually allow them to handle the gun when you think they are ready. How will you know if they are ready? They’ll let you know!
My son was six when he began to show interest in seeing my guns and asking about their operation; however, both he and my daughter had been drilled in gun safety from the time they were old enough to talk and whenever they saw one on TV, in photos, or their father wearing one on his hip. They didn’t know it, but I was educating them from the moment they were old enough to see straight. In fact, my kids are so accustomed to Dad’s guns now that they never even give them a second thought.
So what about that teenager? Should he have had access to his father’s firearm? Damn right he should have. I think the end result of the incident proves that beyond a reasonable doubt. The father knew his son’s maturity and obviously trusted him enough to allow him access, and the end result of a home invasion is teenage babysitter and four young children: 1, criminal home invader scumbag: 0.
In oppressive states like Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia, etc, the constant vilification of firearms is part of the daily fodder of local politicians and local media outlets. This blitz of hoplophobia (the irrational fear of firearms) leads unnecessarily to a perverted curiosity that puts children at greater risk of firearms injury than in a gun-friendly home where the healthy respect for life saving virtues of proper firearms handling and marksmanship is instilled in children.
To leave a mature young person, who is fully capable of proper firearms handling and use, unable to retrieve the family gun in the event of an emergency is nothing short of criminal.
[ Mark Walters is a NRA certified instructor, co-author of the book Lessons from Armed America, and a vocal Second Amendment activist. He is the nationally syndicated host of Armed American Radio, which airs Sunday evenings at 8-11 pm EST (5-8 pm PST) from coast to coast. Mark encourages fans to write him at email@example.com. Visit him at www.armedamericanradio.org ]