How have you helped your children or grandchildren learn to be safe around firearms? What suggestions about kids and guns do you have for other parents?
I believe in hammering safety into a youngster’s head prior to going to the range. I have him recite the safety rules to me in the car ride to the range each time we go. I find that teaching acronyms to stand for important words in the safety rules make it easier for people to remember them, so I came up with something similar to internet lingo, HTTP. Instead we use LTTP, or L-Loaded, T-Trigger, T-Target, & P-Point.
— Brian in Indiana
At age three, I taught grandson Doug the Eddie Eagle safety rules. Now nearly eight, several months ago I took him to his first gun show. He took paper and pencil, and drew numerous pictures, frequently getting only inches from the subject gun. Not once did he ever attempt to touch one. I’ve been teaching him to shoot .22 caliber rifles and revolvers, and he’s looking forward to his next gun show.
— Nevin D. Holmberg
When my boys started the inquisitive stage around their second birthday, I started telling them and showing them how to be safe around firearms, whether it was in my home or one of their friends’ homes.
First, I taught them that a handgun was NOT a toy. Never touch one unless I said they could. This I drilled into their heads weekly. Second, they could ask me any question they wanted about firearms. If they wanted to see it I would let them. I basically took the mystery of the gun and curiosity out of the mix. Third, if they wanted to hold it I would let them. As they did, I instructed them how to properly clear and check a weapon. Not just one time but several times before I handed it to them, then they were to be sure that the weapon was clear and repeat the check steps.
The only time I would not let them look or handle my firearms was when their playmates were over. They were also instructed to tell me if one of their playmates got nosy and started looking for things in my bedroom. They would come to me or their mother and let us know and we handled it. At approximately ages 7-9 I took them shooting and instructed them as to the proper range rules and safety etiquette. They are now both in their 20s and both are licensed to carry concealed. When they have children of their own I hope they are as patient with theirs as I was with them. They honor me when they work hard at being safe with their firearms.
— Michael ‘Doc’ Scholl
My 4 year old girl was ecstatic upon receiving her first firearm this past Christmas. As I am a firearms shop owner as well as an NRA instructor it made me beam from head to toe when she stated that ‘this is what I’ve always wanted’ when my wife and I gave it to her. However, she absolutely warmed my heart and soul with regard to the first thing she did when she picked it up (under our supervision of course).
We could barely believe it when she picked up the firearm, and while keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction with her finger off the trigger, pulled the bolt back, checked the chamber and upon seeing no cartridges in the chamber announced that the gun was ‘clear’! That’s my girl!
— Matt Fonte
When my son was young I donated the complete Eddie Eagle program, with all the workbooks and materials, to his school and continued to do so for the entire five years he was there, in the K-6 levels. I made the program available to all of his schools and each principal was grateful for the information and the four rules stressed in the workbooks.
I also took an active role in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups throughout his schooling and actively helped enroll other boys into those programs. I proudly served as Cubmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, Camp Advisor and eventually Unit Commissioner until well after my son earned his Eagle rank. The care and safety about guns and all sporting implements stressed in those programs gave the boys a terrific grounding for a future as responsible shooters.
— Brady in Washington state
I have taken my kids to an Appleseed Project Shoot. It is a 2 day clinic of rifle marksmanship and history. Safety is first and foremost. It is a great way to spend a weekend with your family. The instruction is excellent, and it is very inexpensive! It is very welcoming for beginners, and challenging for experienced shooters. Any safe, functioning rifles may be used, but we took our .22s because ammo is cheaper. (You shoot 400 – 500 rounds a weekend.) They have these shoots all across the country. Check out www.appleseedinfo.org for one near you.
— Ken Devening
I used the things that I learned here and the Cornered Cat site (www.CorneredCat.com) to teach my kids what they know so far. Without these sites I would have been lost. I had gone from a dad who did not even like toy guns to a dad who carried a real one daily, so it was a very new thing for me and quite the shock to the kids.
I believe that the biggest thing that I learned was to not keep them from handling them when they asked to do so. It really does go a long way to remove the mystery from them. My daughter only asks to hold them when I get a new one and once she does, she asks a few questions about it and then she is good to go. She will make a good wife one day, as most times the question is, “Why do you need this one?”
One of the things I did with the boys was when they would ask to see a gun, I would check the chamber numerous times while they were watching me. Then when I would hand it to them I would ask them if it was loaded or not. Even though they had just watched me check it several times, any answer other than “Yes, it is loaded” or them checking the chamber themselves resulted in the gun being put back into the safe. That only worked a few times with either of them, and now I always get the answer of “Yes it is” or “Let me check.”
— Paul in western Tennessee
My dad took me out one day and had me shoot a watermelon with a 20 gauge. Up until that point all I had shot was empty cans and dirt clods. Seeing that watermelon explode really hammered home to me that there is more at stake than just a little dirt getting kicked up.
— John from Texas
I started educating my daughters in gun safety as soon as I felt they had the hand strength to squeeze a trigger. That was around kindergarten. I unloaded the firearm then let them touch it, handle it, and squeeze the trigger. I also let them examine the bullets and the magazines. I also took them to the shooting range for them to hear and experience a round going off.
I explained how people could get hurt if they touched a firearm. This took all the curiosity out and they understood never to touch a firearm. After they got old enough, about 10 years old, to properly handle a handgun, I started to take them with me to the shooting range.
A few years later, I introduced them to the shotgun and the rifle. Now at around 18 years old, my two daughters are very good marksmen and are proficient at handling many types of firearms. When kids are around, the safest place for a handgun is in its holster on your waist or locked in the safe. But when that fails, you want your kids to really understand that guns are not to be toyed with.
— George in Florida
Firearm safety is a top priority with grandkids around our 10 acre homestead. We start by fitting the child with the right sized caliber, working up from a 22 to a 38 S&W for a nine year old and we always use hearing and eye protection. For kids, we also stick to bull’s eye targets and the occasional bowling pin.
— Rick Warner
Next Issue’s Question:
Share YOUR success stories! How have you helped another person on their path to becoming a responsibly armed citizen? How did another person help you along your own path?
Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each entry must use fewer than 75 words, and must be signed either with a complete name or with a first name plus location. Due to volume received, not all submissions can be acknowledged. Entries may be edited for length and clarity.