2 Safety tips for your kids: The sound of gunfire & concealment vs. cover

In the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, a lot of parents have asked how their children can be safe at school if something like this hits closer to home.

This is a national discussion that, I hope, will be ongoing and will result in some really smart actions on the parts of school officials. However, there are two simple concepts you can begin teaching your children now.

What does gunfire actually sound like?

Kids should know what live gunfire sounds like. Believe it or not, even seasoned policemen can sometimes be fooled by the sound of a gunshot since it can sound like a car backfiring, a firecracker, or just a loud POP.

Take your child to a shooting range, even if you are not going to actually shoot!

If you go to an outdoor range, park a distance away and let them hear the sound of gunfire without any ear protection. Move a little closer and let them hear a few shots without ear protection and then with ear protection. By the way, you can purchase inexpensive foam ear plugs at any drugstore or Walmart. (I usually wear “foamies” along with ear muffs.)

Indoor ranges will require everyone to wear ear protection and they will loan it to you, but even with that, there will be no doubt what gunfire sounds like.

IF, and that’s a very big IF!, your kids ever hear gunfire, they will be able to identify it quickly and take action, whether it’s running away, calling for help, or taking cover. Considering that a bullet can travel thousands of feet per second, every second counts when it comes to staying safe. Compare that with the length of time required to find a phone, dial 911, give a coherent explanation of a live gunfire event to the operator, and the arrival of police… just sayin.

Concealment vs. Taking cover

Kids need to know the difference between “hiding”, or concealment, and “taking cover.” I’m a full grown adult, but I could “hide” behind a silk tree in my house or under the kitchen table. Neither would protect me from much danger at all, much less gunfire, but it might conceal me from a bad guy with really bad eyesight!

“Concealment” is simply hiding behind or under something. It’s possible that hiding place might conceal them from a bad guy, but simple concealment is no protection from a bullet.

In movies you’ll often hear one character yell to another, “Take cover!” Taking cover means hiding behind or under something that offers real protection from gunfire. In a typical commercial building, including schools, this could be a concrete or brick wall. If school classrooms have metal doors, that is a better cover than a wooden door.

Teaching these concepts to your kids

Sadly, the Sandy Hook shooting has been in the news so much that most kids have heard about it. The fear is already there. What probably is not there are techniques or a strategy to use if something like that should happen in their own school or at home.

If your kids have been talking and asking about what happened, you may as well get to the point about discussing ways to stay safe and get it over with. Kids appreciate honesty and directness and probably have plenty of worries they may not have voiced.

They’ve already learned about cyber security (never give your name, age, address) and much more. Equipping them with information and some practice when it comes to staying safe from gunfire makes sense in this day and age.

To parents who hate guns…

Even if you personally hate guns, raising children who are completely ignorant of gun safety rules and how a gun works is negligent parenting, in my opinion. We teach them about fire safety, bicycle safety, how to dial 911, and staying away from Mr. Stranger Danger, but too many parents pretend that guns don’t exist when it comes to those safety talks. With 200 million guns in America, no parent can afford to stick their head in the sand and wish for a different reality.

Blunt talk, I know, but Hollywood, video games, and the media make guns seem so exciting and glamorous that kids, especially boys, become fascinated by them. Once kids learn just how loud a real gun is and learn how to be safe around them, and that includes handling them safely, guns lose their allure.

Read more about kids and gun safety in my series, Common Sense Strategies for Teaching Gun Safety:


There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2012 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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  1. Preacher says

    Spot on! My 9 year old was into guns like crazy until I took him out plinking one day. I taught him the rules and allowed him to shoot a few rounds. It’s amazing the difference in his attitude towards guns. He respects them, but he really doesn’t want that much to do with them. They went from something exotic to something real, real quick. We have a safety plan for home, school, and church. We know where to go and what to do. I hope we never have a Sandy hook incident here. If we do, I feel like my family has a better chance because we have worked through this in advance. Thanks for all that you do!

  2. Jen says

    I just had this conversation with my children last night at dinner. DD#1 (age9) was/is very scared and confused about everything she’s heard. And I was please with the calmness she started showing once DH and I started explaining how she and her siblings could take cover and what to do in various situations. I took the conversation from specific bad guy with a gun to general preparedness. She’s now tasked with getting prescriptions if we have to evacuate. I could tell knowing what she was allowed to do provided her with answers and stability.

  3. April says

    I couldn’t have said it better myself…even though this is exactly what I’ve been thinking since Friday. My sons have held, heard and shot BB and pellet guns (after a thorough lesson in the four rules!!) and then they shot a .22 rifle. They loved it, but admitted it “wasn’t at all like TV”. They know if they want to hold a gun, they ask Dad. There is no mystery. Guns are a part of this world and I’m glad my kids respect them and know what can happen when others do not respect them. I’ve encouraged them to run like hell if they ever hear gunfire, at school, the park or wherever!

  4. and says

    I agree with the other comments. I also think kids who hunt have much more respect for guns and what they can do. They have to take gun safety classes, and they know it’s not a video game. I know it’s not pc, but shooting a rabbit or a squirrel gives someone a much better sense of what guns actually do. There is a tradition that we used to have about using guns that involved strict safety rules and hunting for food, and it has been replaced with shooting “zombies”. I wonder if that is part of the problem too.

  5. says

    This is right on the money. We are a hunting/shooting sports family, and Hunter’s Safety is a requirement for our household, whether our kiddo chooses to hunt or not. He has always been around hunting, so although he plays at shooting zombies he knows the reality of what a gun can truly do. (And gun safety lessons are continual part of our vocabulary.)

  6. says

    “Even if you personally hate guns, raising children who are completely ignorant of gun safety rules and how a gun works is negligent parenting, in my opinion. We teach them about fire safety, bicycle safety, how to dial 911, and staying away from Mr. Stranger Danger, but too many parents pretend that guns don’t exist when it comes to those safety talks. With 200 million guns in America, no parent can afford to stick their head in the sand and wish for a different reality.”

    I agree with that much at least. There should be no mystery about these things. Respect for the weapon and what it can do isn’t just saving your kid from a shooter, it’s also saving them from potential accidents in the future. I’ve seen too many “grown-ups” get a hand gun for personal protection only to disrespect the weapon and nearly kill someone by accident simply by being irresponsible.

    And the saddest part is, since they weren’t taught correctly, they refuse to admit that anything “wrong” happened. “It was just an accident” they say, and shrug it off like someone didn’t come inches from dying. Teaching kids about this stuff is like the “birds and the bees” talk in that It’s best they hear it from a responsible parent so it can be treated with the respect it deserves rather than have them find out on their own.

  7. says

    I work in a school and I have to say that the shooting has started some conversations as to what we could do. It may be time for schools to have this type of training as they do for fire drills. I personally wish that some teachers could carry so there could be some form of protection and fight back…

  8. Chandra says

    I see too many kids allowed to treat toy guns casually. I taught mine to treat any gun toy or not like it was real. Rule number one: never allow the muzzle of a gun point at any living thing you don’t intend to kill. Pisses me off when other parents get mad at me for not allowing their children to point a gun at me. “It’s just a toy” is no excuse for allowing children to develop bad habits.

    • Lisa in AZ says

      LIKE LIKE LIKE @ Chandra!! I am “anal” about this too…I don’t care if it’s an orange Nerf gun…you don’t point it at me, your brothers, or the dogs! (yes, my boys did that, and got nailed for it) We’ve only JUST purchased our first gun in this family, mostly because, until now, *I* was too afraid of them to have them in the house. Now I’m more afraid of other things too numerous to mention. It helps that the boys are now 18, 20 and 23 😉 The oldest has joined the Army (like Dad) and the youngest wants to as soon as he finishes high school.

  9. Stealth Spaniel says

    Thank you Lisa, for taking this head on! A lot of California friends think that “once we ban guns, we won’t have to worry”. Well, they were set straight in no time. Let’s see, the gun ban in the UK has not stopped the criminals at all. The elites in France still have weapons, and armed guards at their disposal, but the public is at the mercy of terrorists and gang bangers. I don’t understand the stupidity in this country when it comes to guns. It is a tool, like a kitchen knife or a garden shovel. Any tool can be misused, and a false sense of security is dangerous. The ignored mentally ill are for another article.
    Training children, and adults, to understand how gun shots sound, what it means to try to protect yourself, and when and where to make a run for it is so important. The military spends thousands of hours to train soldiers to do just that. It is the least that the schools can do. Maybe the Department of Education can cut out a first grade accepting lifestyle choices class and instead do some drilling on saving your life!

  10. The First Joe says

    You can buy, for very modest money kevlar panels from eBay and elsewhere. These can be sewn into a kids backpack (as I understand it kids have their backbacks with them in schools), to offer an additional layer of protection for the body or head, from handgun or shotgun shot, at least.

    P.S. I live in UK. Gun crime with actual real guns as opposed to air rifles or fakes is super low (a total of only about 40 gun murders out of 550 murders in the whole nation per annum). There are about 2million legally held firearms, mostly shotguns, held on licence in UK. Whereas guns are scarce enough on the black market that crims operate a “lending library” system and handgun ammo costs £10 ($17) per round on the black market.
    Of course, the UK is an island nation, on the edge of a gun controlled continent, and is very much less violent than USA.

    P.P.S. Altho’ military calibres are not permitted to civilian French they are free to own tazers, CS and pepper spray for carry (unlike UK) also “gomme cogne” i.e. Rubber bullet guns for home defence. Additionally they can buy any black powder muzzle loading weapons without any licence.
    Further, their licencing of hunting / shooting rifles and shotguns is via civilian authorities, with just a declaration to the cops. Much more “relaxed” than UK. And the French are much more widely armed in consequence. There are lots of shooting and hunting clubs throughout France: “Balle-trap” (clay pigeon) shooting, “Ancien” (black powder) and hunting esp. “en battue” are v. popular. There’s even a “hunting, shooting, fishing and traditions” political party with it’s own TV channel!

  11. Paul says

    Learning about guns is part of the solution, learning to read signs of an individual who snapped is another. All the shooters, columbine, Virginia, and Sandy Elementary left clues and signs that many ignored. Mental illness can affect any member of society. Having said that, parents should learn to safely lock away their guns at home where children cannot have ease of asses to them.

  12. Melissa says

    My first experience with a gun was at 5 years old. My father bought a small 22 pistol and immediately took my brothers (4&6) and I to a firing range with a few of our uncles and his friends there was a wide assortment of guns there. To this day 26 years later it is one of my most vivid memories. He let us hold it unloaded showed us how it worked how to take it apart and put it back together same with every gun there. Then thy put ear muffs on us and started shooting at full cans of tomato soup with an old white sheet hung for a back drop. That image of the red flying from the back of the can was enough for us to get the point that they were not toys like our cap guns were. When we got home that day he showed us where he locked his gun up at and where he locked his ammo at (different lock boxes) and made it clear that we were never to touch them. None of us even considered it until around 16 when we asked to be taught how to shoot.

    I do remember neighborhood kids playing one pump with BB guns and several ER trips because someone pumped it too many times and imbedded a BB into someone’s leg or arm or butt cheek. You know what though I remember those kids parents complaining they didn’t understand why their child would play such a game with even a BB gun because they didn’t keep real guns around and the kids had no gun exposure. Gee I wonder why they didn’t respect it… If nothing else children need to know that no gun, toy, BB, handgun, rifle or other is for games they are to be respected at all times!
    As far as the mental illness goes this country over diagnoses a lot because its easier to medicate then to admit society has created a lot of these issues. Believe me I know mental illness is very real and very dangerous but it is now so commonplace people ignore it and pass it off as attention seeking or hypochondria. That is why people ignore very real warning signs.
    Andrea Yates is a perfect example of that. She really had issues and post pardum depression compound that with her husband being controlling and not listening when the doctors suggested no more kids until she could mentally recover, then giving her a cocktail of drugs that weren’t working and rapidly changing them, she snapped because her husband and her therapist ignored the real signs and tried to mask it with drugs and instead made it worse. Her children suffered for that mistake. But I bet if you asked 100 people why she did it very few could tell you even that much of the story. By the time she killed her kids she had been long since in her right mind I doubt she had any mental control at that point and even if she would have those drugs mess with your brain and really do make things worse more often then people realize.
    On the same subject not every type of “mental illness” means you are going to snap and murder someone or harm yourself. I am bi polar II but never in my life have I ever even considered harming another person or myself. I may not be the best shot but I know how to treat a firearm and I respect them. You can’t put a blanket over every type I mental illness and say these people might commit murder. Many perfectly same people commit murder that’s why they are in prisons not asylums. Charles Manson was a very sick individual but mentally sound.
    I don’t know the right answer for gun arguments but I do know that good people should not loose the right to own and carry a firearm. I do think the government needs to pull their heads out of their rear and realize that if its not a gun it will be something else, and that gun control isn’t going to convince the criminals to turn in their already unregistered firearms. Considering how long human beings have been around compared to when guns were invented I don’t think guns have been the largest life take overall. What’s next our kitchen knives?

    Thank you for this post I wish more people would think like you!

  13. says

    I like how blunt you are about parent who don’t like guns. It amazing how many people “bury there head in the sand, hoping for a different reality”. If i quoted that correctly.

    We don’t want our children developing a drug habit, that is why schools implemented programs such as D.A.R.E., to teach. If you’ve never been taught, you don’t know.

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