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Children and Firearms: How to prevent firearm accidents in the home

I’ve seen the news headlines just as you have:

“8 year old accidentally shoots and kills friend”
“Child shoots self while playing with Father’s pistol”
“Two young children shot by friend inside their home”

These stories bring us to tears and we often wonder how they could have been prevented. How did a child gain access to both firearm and ammunition? What went wrong?

appleseed_1623webI often bring up The 4 Rules of Gun Safety while talking to people about firearm safety, and continue to explain that an accident with a firearm cannot occur if these 4 rules are always followed. However, the rules do not specify anything related to keeping firearms out of reach of those who should not have access to them. While this seems like common sense to most people, we still hear stories of children getting a hold of their parents (or relatives) firearms.

It comes down to being a responsible gun owner.

Once anyone introduces a firearm into their lives, they take on a responsibility of great proportion. Your life changes immediately whether it’s a rifle, shotgun or pistol. It doesn’t even matter if children don’t live in the house, really. Your firearm is your responsibility. If your home gets robbed and firearms are stolen, you are ultimately responsible for that firearm and need to report it stolen immediately. If a friend comes over and knows where it is, then talks to a friend, that friend may come over with your friend one day and slip your firearm out the door. The scenarios are endless.

Let’s get back to children and firearms. How do you prevent a child from accessing them? How do you curb their curiosity? How do you teach them safety, and when? Here are a set of rules that have been floating around the internet and compiled for a simple list of recommendations:

  • At anytime a firearm is not in use (eg. range, cleaning), you should secure that firearm in a location unknown to children in the home and more importantly, inaccessible.
  • Talk to your children about firearms and the respect that they deserve. When you feel your children are of a proper age, show them your firearms and answer any questions they may have, and show them how to handle them safely.
  • Store ammunition and firearms separately.
  • At an appropriate age, take your children to the range. For the first few trips, let them simply watch you handle your firearms and show them the proper ways to safely operate them. When you feel they have enough safety knowledge, consider letting them fire a .22 under your direct supervision.
  • If you have a self defense firearm in the home, think carefully about where it is stored. Can your child access this location? Do they know where it is? Remember, children are curious and tend to find things in the home that you may want hidden. If choosing a safe, do plenty of research into it’s operation. A lot of gun safes can be opened with a paperclip or by simply hitting it from the top.
  • Start teaching your children about firearm safety at an early age. With this early knowledge and respect for firearms, they will likely maintain proper respect for firearms throughout their lives.

The bottom line is this: The children that we read about in these stories should not have had access to the firearms that caused injuries and death. Some of the stories told of pistols being left in child-height dressers, unlocked and loaded. With a kid in the house, this is one of the worst places to leave a firearm. It simply shouldn’t happen. Kids are curious, and they will find them.

These are just a few observations and recommendations if we had children in the house. As every child is different, it’s up to the parents to decide when the time is right to introduce them to firearms and how to approach is very important topic. No one else can make that judgement call.

With properly stored firearms and ammunition in every household, these incidents will reach zero. Have anything to add to this article? Disagree with anything? Leave a comment in the Facebook Comments section below to get the conversation started.

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