Straight Shooter: Talking to Kids About Gun Safety
By an Alaska mom
I grew up in a house without guns. My family didn’t own guns, we didn’t shoot guns, we didn’t even really talk about guns. Ironically, when I got married, I joined a family of subsistence hunters, sport shooters and gun collectors.
While I am still not entirely comfortable around guns, I respect the fact that we live in a state where guns are tightly interwoven in the lifestyles, cultures and traditions of many Alaskans.
While I don’t eat meat, I respect the fact that, like many families in Alaska, my in-laws fill their freezer each year with moose they have brought home from successful hunting trips.
And while it makes me nervous, I respect the fact that my son wants to learn to shoot safely – and that my husband and father-in-law want to pass their knowledge down to him.
So while we each have differing experiences, attitudes and opinions about guns, one thing we can all agree on is the importance of gun safety. And that starts with talking to our kids.
Even if there is not a gun in your household, your children are likely to come into contact with one at some point, so it is important to talk to them about guns and gun safety.
Depending on the age of your child, questions you may want to discuss together include:
- How should a gun be treated?
- Do any of your friends have access to a gun at home?
- Have any of your friends talked about using a gun?
- Have you ever had a friend show you – or try to show you – a gun?
- What would you do if you saw a gun at school or at a friend’s house?
- When you see guns being used in TV shows and movies, do you think it’s realistic? Do you think there were other ways the characters could have handled the situation?
This is a conversation that needs to continue and evolve as your kids get older, make new friends and experience different situations.
Now that my son is of an age where he is spending time with friends and family without my supervision, I know I can’t control every person and situation he comes in contact with. I believe the best way I can protect him is to prepare him with the information he needs to make good decisions.
So what does my son need to know? Here are some kid-focused tips, based on information from KidsHealth.org, that parents can share with their children. (Please know that these tips are just focused on basic gun safety – the topic of gun violence, how to address that and how to talk to our kids about it is a huge and important issue worthy of its own article.)
If your family has a gun at home:
- All guns should be stored in a secure gun safe. You are not allowed access to the safe until you are an adult and know how to handle a gun.
- When you have friends over, don’t show them where the gun or gun safe is kept.
- Never get the gun out or handle a gun unless a parent or another responsible adult is with you and says it’s OK.
When you’re at a friend’s house:
- If you see a gun somewhere, stop what you’re doing. Do not touch the gun, even if it looks like a toy. Leave the area where the gun is. Tell an adult right away.
- If a friend wants to show you a gun, say “no” and leave or call your parent for a ride. Tell your parent right away what happened. Don’t worry about getting your friend into trouble — you will be helping to keep him or her safe.
If someone is carrying a gun:
- If someone tells you they have a gun or shows you a gun, get away from the person quickly and quietly. Tell an adult you trust immediately. If you can’t find a teacher, parent, coach or other adult, call 911. Don’t feel that you’re being a tattletale if you tell an adult that someone has a gun. Remember, you may save a life!
If you’re using a gun for hunting or target practice:
- Never get the gun out when you are alone. Only use the gun with a parent or a responsible adult there and only if you have their permission.
- Always assume a gun is loaded.
- Neverpoint a gun at someone, even if you think it is unloaded. Always point a gun toward the ground until ready to use.
Of course, there are also things we as adults need to do to keep our kids safe. For example:
- If you have a gun at home, store it unloaded and locked up in a gun safe. Lock up bullets separately from the gun. Only responsible adults should know how to unlock the gun safe.
- Before your child goes over to a friend or family member’s house for the first time, you may want to consider asking if there are guns in the house and if they are locked up and stored out of reach. Although the question may be uncomfortable, it could end up saving your child’s life.
- If your child is going to be using a gun for hunting or target practice, make sure they have been taught by a responsible adult how a gun works and how to use it safely. Taking a gun safety class is a great family activity.
So whether you are a sharpshooter or don’t know a single thing about guns, here are three common steps we can all take to keep our kids safe:
- Talk with our kids.
- Prepare them with information to help them make good decisions.
- Take appropriate safety precautions.
Find more information at https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/gun-safety.html.