In many American households, firearms are an everyday accessory. In many homes, they coexist in the same spaces as children. Sadly, firearm accidents with children are too common, and about 8 to 10 happen every day.
The best way to avoid tragic accidents is to work on gun safety as a family. Prioritizing gun safety will avoid needless accidents. Teaching your children about gun safety at an early age will also help them develop a healthy relationship with firearms.
If you understand the importance of firearm safety for your whole family but are unsure where to start, here is your guide.
Why Is Gun Safety Important?
No matter why you have guns in the home, whether for self-defense or sport, you are probably already aware that they can be dangerous and potentially deadly tools. Safety education is essential when using any dangerous tool—after all, people have to go through driver’s education before getting their license to prevent themselves from harming others on the road!
Gun safety is critical because there are many ways to accidentally hurt or even kill someone with a gun, particularly for children who don’t know the basics of handling a firearm yet. With the right to own guns comes a responsibility to keep yourself and others around you safe. It’s important to always remember the basics – STOP, DON’T TOUCH, RUN AWAY, TELL AN ADULT!!
Gun safety encompasses many different things, from education around handling firearms to safe storage.
Why Should You Educate Kids on Gun Safety?
Gun safety is particularly important in families with children. Gun accidents and fatalities are leading causes of death and injury among children.
There is a common misconception that there’s no need to educate very young children about guns because they can’t handle them anyway. Children as young as three can pull triggers, even if they cannot aim or hold a gun—but that is enough to hurt themselves or others.
Young children often have trouble understanding just how dangerous guns are. That fact seems intuitive to adults, but it isn’t to children unless you take the time to explain it to them. They may confuse your very real firearms with toys.
Besides educating your children on gun safety, you should take other firearm safety precautions if you have children in the house, such as storing the gun safely.
Are Video Games an Issue?
While video games can provide a fun and stimulating way to spend time, there is growing concern about the potentially harmful effects that they can have on children. One of the most significant dangers is the desensitization that video games can cause. When children are repeatedly exposed to violence through video games, they can become less sensitive to it and more likely to see it as a normal part of life. This can lead to a numbing of emotions, making it more difficult for children to empathize with others and understand the consequences of their actions.
Additionally, video games often reward players for violent behavior, which can further reinforce aggressive tendencies. In light of these concerns, parents should monitor their children’s video game playing to make sure they are not acting out the violence they see on the screen. Games that are rated “M” for Mature or “AO” for Adults Only contain content that is not suitable for children, and can negatively impact their behavior. Parents should look for signs that their child is becoming aggressive, such as hitting, kicking, or using abusive language.
If you notice these behaviors, it is important to talk to your child about why they are wrong and what the consequences could be if they continue to act out. You should also consider limiting their video game playing time and monitoring the types of games they are playing. By taking these precautions, you can help ensure that your child does not become a victim of video game violence.
How to Educate Kids About Guns
Age-appropriate gun safety education is key to preventing accidents, even among very young children.
The first thing you should emphasize with young children is that guns are not toys, and they should not touch them under any circumstances. Even if you are careful about storing guns in your own home, you never know what your child might encounter at a friend, relative, or neighbor’s house. Teach them that they should not touch guns under any circumstances, to leave the room if they notice a gun is lying around, and to go tell a responsible adult.
One way to reinforce this lesson is by using toy guns. Very young children often confuse toys with real objects, so the best way to practice gun safety is to practice gun safety with toy guns. Teach them to always store toys properly and never to aim them directly at someone.
Slightly older children, such as pre-teens and tweens, can learn a more nuanced approach to gun safety. You can teach your children to handle guns using smaller, less dangerous models such as pellet guns and BB guns. If your children are around guns during their lives, learning proper gun handling in a lower-stakes situation can help them stay safe.
Even when older children can aim and fire a smaller gun on their own, teach them that they should never handle a gun without an adult present. Emphasize that they should never, ever point a gun at someone, even as a joke. Until they are mature young adults, never give your children keys or the combination to a gun safe. Even the most responsible child can feel the temptation to show off.
Resources for Talking to Kids About Gun Safety
If you’re not sure how to start talking to your child about gun safety, you’re not alone. Many parents are uncomfortable about discussing the realities of firearm ownership with children and would rather pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
Luckily, there are many resources out there to help you. Shooting rangers, gun owners’ associations, and public health institutions publish free resources online to help parents. Some ranges and nonprofits even offer gun safety classes just for kids where trained instructors can navigate this topic with your children.
How to Store Guns Safely in Households with Kids
The other important component in family gun safety, besides education, is proper gun storage.
Always store your guns in a locked safe. Before putting them away for storage, unload and uncock the gun. Store the ammunition in a separate container, also locked. Ensure that only you and another trusted adult, such as your spouse, have the keys or code to the storage, and your children don’t know where the keys are.
Some gun owners even put a lock on the gun or pistol itself to prevent it from firing.
Technology Enabling Safe Gun Storage
Gun safes and gun locks are a great way to keep your family safe from gun accidents, but what if you keep your guns for self-defense? A home intruder won’t exactly wait for you to undo the lock on your gun safe, unlock the gun, and track down the ammunition.
Luckily, there are new, high-tech gun safes that help you store firearms safely and access them quickly. Biometric gun safes don’t require finding a key to open them, just scanning your fingerprint. Another option is an RFID gun safe, which uses RFID technology to scan a tag you wear on your wrist and open it quickly.
One company that builds high-tech safes is Vaultek, which offers a portable biometric gun safe to take with you to the range. The safe also comes with Bluetooth, so it connects to your smartphone.
Vara Safety is another company using technology to keep your firearms safe. Their biometric gun locks ensure that only you can access your guns, including during an emergency.
Can Storing Guns Safely Save Money on Your Taxes?
There are many reasons to store guns safely, the most important of which is keeping your family safe. But what if storing your gun safely could also save you money?
Some lawmakers are toying with the idea of offering tax incentives for proper gun safety practices. The idea has broad support among the public, including gun owners. The measure has bipartisan support among the public and lawmakers alike.
Actual tax breaks for gun safety are not widespread yet, but some local governments have started waiving sales taxes for gun locks and safes or proposing tax credits for taking gun safety classes. Look into the laws in your state or city. If you’re already practicing gun safety, why not save some money while you’re at it?
Safe Gun Ownership Practices
Practicing gun safety happens early. It’s never too soon to start educating your children about handling guns safely and teaching them how to interact with firearms, whether you teach them at home or take them to an age-appropriate class at the range. You can also protect your family (and get some money back on your taxes) by practicing safe gun storage.