Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Having 'the talk' with your kids . . . . the gun talk, that is.

As parents, we hope that our children always make the best possible decisions when faced with a tough choice. Right vs. wrong, relationships, drugs, college, and careers - these are just a few of the decisions that we hope and pray our children choose the correct path with, and their decisions are often partially based on the information that we've shared with them. One of the paths of life that our kids also need assistance with is the safe handling of firearms, since we live in a gun culture and youth are very likely to come in contact with firearms at some point. Even if their household has no firearms, there's a good chance that someone in their circle of friends does.

Whether you were raised with firearms in your home or not, and regardless of your choice of firearm ownership now, it's vital that you get the kids in your life trained properly so that they know what to do if they find or see a gun, whether in your home or someone else's. We recommend getting them into a professional training program, whether through the NRA, Hunter's Education, or a private training organization like us (Independence Training). The benefit of this, even if you as a parent are an accomplished hunter or shooter, is that your kids will get to hear someone else reinforce what you've been probably been teaching them already, and trust me - they'll get more out of it. Professional firearms instructors tend to have great experience with safety and what happens when the rules are broken, and can pass on additional information to your kids that you may not know about. In fact, taking a course with your kids is a great way to not only spend time with your kids, but you may learn something new yourself! Even as professional instructors, we still get other instructors to train our kids when they reach a certain age. There's no such thing as too much training, especially when it comes to our kids and safety.

One of our future instructors learns the ins and outs of the M32 MGL.

Now that you and your kids are on the same page with safety, what about their friends? What do you know about the safe storage of firearms at the locations where your kids spend time? Often times we talk with the parents of our kids' friends about video game limitations, food allergies, or swimming pool fences, but we leave out asking about firearms in the home. While the question of "Do you have guns in your home?" isn't a question that most of us would normally answer if asked by someone not close to us, if a concerned parent who had a child in your home asked it, you should be happy to tell them about the safe storage methods that you employ to keep your firearms secured from unauthorized access. It's also important to rememeber that there are kids out there who have parents in the traditional sense of the word (mom and dad) but those parents may or may not be taking an active role in the raising of their children, such as teaching them about safe habits. Even parents who are actively engaged with their kids may not own firearms or be familiar with them, and even some of those who do own firearms do not know much about safely securing them. Don't be afraid to ask!

So now that your kids are properly educated, and you know that firearms are secured in your kids' most common hangout spots, how do you remove the mystique and curiosity surrounding firearms? Remove the mystery - it's what we teach to our students, and practice with our own kids. In homes where the guns are a "never touch" kind of issue, or "hidden" or explained as "dangerous," the kids are more likely to try and get to them. It's a curiosity thing, plain and simple, so remove the mystery. Not only should you talk with your kids about firearms safety, but also allow them to handle properly unloaded firearms while teaching them about safe handling. Show them how the firearm and ammunition work mechanically, then explain simple ballistics. Talk to them about the history of firearms and the Second Amendment, and why firearms are an important part of American culture. If they ask to see your guns, set some time aside to show them in a safe manner, and if they ask to go shooting, set time aside to do that, too. Make sure to cover what they should do if they see a firearm in someone else's home, or are asked by their friends to play with real firearms. To sum it up: Don't Touch and Leave the Area! Be sure to practice what you preach, however - if you do unsafe things with firearms, your kids will follow suit. But if you teach that a firearm is simply a tool, albeit a powerful tool, and not some dangerous killing machine, then your kids will start to see it as just that - a tool for certain jobs, nothing more.

While accidental shooting deaths amongst children are more rare than the media hype would have you believe, they do still happen, and to this date we haven't read or heard about one where the firearm was toally secured or the child educated before the accident. So regardless of how old your child is, or what their experience level with firearms is (video games don't count!), please talk with them and those that they spend time with about firearms safety. Feel free to use our "THINK Safety" firearm safety rules document below (the same thing we teach in all of our courses) to help you accomplish having "the gun talk" with your kids.

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

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