Recently, my public Facebook page featured an old video of my children. The clip captures my then 3-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son as they responded to a firearm that they came across while playing.
What We Planned
Now granted, my husband and I set the whole scene up. We did not just leave a firearm unattended in our home and wait for the kids to stumble across it. We took out the magazine, disconnected the seer, inserted a laser training cartridge, and engaged the manual safety. So we effectively rendered our M&P Shield completely unusable. Then we hid the disabled gun among some coloring books, construction paper and sticker sheets. We told the kids they could come play with some fun things on the kitchen table. My husband was hiding around the corner in the dining room. I pretended to have to go off to the restroom. But we were watching — and videoing — the entire time.
We wanted to see how our two youngest kids would react if they found a gun when we weren’t right there with them. We wanted to see if all the gun-safety training we had been doing with them was working. We didn’t prepare them for the video or tell them what was about to happen. We didn’t tell them how to act or what to say. We just secretly set up the phone and let it record. They stuck to their training and made us very proud.
How Our Kids Responded
In the video, my 7-year-old son is the first one to see the firearm. As he shuffles through the craft items on the table and things begin to shift, he suddenly notices the gun. “There’s a gun!” he announces, pulling his arms back to his body, stunned. My 3-year-old then distinctly asserts, “Tell Mommy and Daddy!” My son, who actually spots my husband nearby in the other room, says, “Daddy, there’s a gun!” The two of them then continue to look through the stickers and the other items, but they are careful to leave the firearm alone. “Did you touch it?” my daughter asks my son. Knowing his parents are near, he repeats, “Daddy, there’s a gun,” and then he firmly replies to my daughter, “Don’t touch it,” as the video ends.
What the Naysayers Said
When I first went back and watched the video, it gave me chills. I was so proud of both of them. Their reactions and responses were exactly as we’d talked about with them over and over again. It was exactly as we’d trained them.
Of course, that didn’t stop people from questioning the video. Many people asked what happened afterward or questioned if there were other videos where our kids did touch the firearm. Some people stated that kids are naturally curious and, even though our video was great, most kids wouldn’t act that way. Well, our kids aren’t “most kids.”
So to answer the naysayers: Our children didn’t know we were watching and/or filming them. They did not touch the firearm at any time before, during or after the video. We asked them some questions about what happened afterward and praised them for their responsible actions. But when the video stopped, they continued to play as if it had never happened. Why? Because we’ve taught them … and because that education happens continuously.
You see, our kids are being brought up around firearms as a normal, everyday part of life. They see my husband and me clean and maintain our guns, prepare range bags for training and competition, store firearms and get our everyday carry guns in holsters. They hear the universal safety rules all the time, but more importantly, they witness the safety rules being lived out and used every day! We also have conversations with our children about being safe and responsible with guns. And for them, it’s now as commonplace and ordinary as being safe and responsible around fire, knives, medications or other tools in the home.
What to Do Now
I don’t believe that this training guarantees our kids won’t ever make a mistake. But it’s undoubtedly more effective than ignoring the topic of firearms and leaving their safety to chance. Or worse… leaving their safety to what they’ve witnessed in movies or in the media. Because of this, I encourage everyone to train their children about guns. Also, be vigilant and consistent with safety, whether or not you think they’re watching or listening. Don’t you want your kids to be different from “most kids” too?