Talking to your kids about firearms, firearms safety and concealed carry is one of the most important conversations that you will ever have. It is literally a conversation with life-or-death potential.
Laying the Foundation of Firearms Safety
My brother and I were blessed from ages 8 and 6 to have our dad teach us to shoot a .22 rifle. After learning to shoot, we came home and watched dad clean the rifles and put them back in their cases. When he finished, he told us that he would allow us to see the rifles when he was around; all we had to do was ask. He also told us that if we ever touched a gun without him around, the consequences would be unthinkable. True to his word, we got to see the guns when we wanted. We knew better than to test the other part of the message.
Dad’s conversation did two things: First, it removed our curiosity about firearms. They never became the “forbidden fruit.” Second, it told us there would be serious consequences for disobeying his directions.
Children and Gun Safety
I have a 5-year-old son. My wife and I have been teaching him appropriate behavior since day one. And that includes with guns. Being a police officer and gun reviewer, I think it would have been quite impossible (not to mention a big mistake) to hide the fact that we have firearms in the house.
I explained to my son when he was around 3 that my guns are dangerous and that he is never to touch them. Like my dad told me, I told him that if he wanted to see them, I would show them to him when he asked. Of course, I also told him that he would be in big trouble if he ever touched them without asking.
I’ve followed up these conversations — more than once for memory’s sake — with discussions about how he should not share my line of work or the fact that we have firearms with anyone. If you are a CCW permit holder, I strongly recommend talking to your kids about keeping the guns you carry daily a secret. It keeps the element of surprise with you.
As my son has gotten older, if I bring home a new test gun or show him one he asked to see, I discuss the importance of checking to make sure it is unloaded. I even have him verify a clear chamber or cylinder with me. He now asks if a gun is unloaded as soon as I begin to look at it. While he is safety-conscious, he is still only 5, so I back up conversation with safety precautions.
Backing Up the Talk to Keep Your Children Safe
Words are great, but you should still practice firearms safety with children at all times. My off-duty guns have triggers that he can’t pull or are backed up by safety mechanisms he can’t disengage. Glocks are great guns, but he has been able to pull the trigger on an unloaded Glock since he was 3. Additionally, the holsters my duty and off-duty guns are kept in are difficult for him to release.
So far so good, but the training, talk and safety precautions will be ongoing. I firmly believe if you follow a similar plan while talking to your kids about guns, you can make sure that gun ownership does not come in conflict with having children. There would be nothing more tragic than that.
About Scott W. Wagner
Scott W. Wagner is a criminal justice professor and police academy commander from Columbus, Ohio. He has been a police officer since 1980, working as an undercover liquor investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, patrol officer, SWAT team member, sniper and assistant team leader. Scott is currently a patrol sergeant with the Village of Baltimore, Ohio, Police Department. He has been a police firearms instructor since 1986 and is certified to instruct revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun.
Kids and Guns Post 3/6
Kids and guns is a hotly debated topic. Regardless of your stance, educating your kids about guns WILL lead to their great safety. Unsure of where to begin? This comprehensive six-part series will help you tackle it. Jim Doyle kicked off the series by debunking the malicious claim that law-abiding gun owners care more about guns than protecting their children. Beth Alcazar explains why we need to teach our children about firearms (Article 2). In this article, Scott Wagner emphasizes why talking to your kids about firearms, firearms safety and concealed carry is one of the most important conversations that you will ever have. Alcazar concludes the series with articles explaining that there is no magic age for teaching kids about guns (Article 4), the importance of practicing home defense with children (Article 5) and the five simple steps to keep your kids and guns safe (Article 6).
Find more articles in our Kids and Guns series below:
Protecting Our Children — Gun Safety, Violence & Gun Control | Firearms Education | Talking to Kids About Firearms Safety & Concealed Carry | What Is the Right Age to Discuss Gun Safety | Home Defense With Children | Simple Steps to a Safer Home