Two Things My Kids Know About Guns

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We took the kids to the shooting range again yesterday, along with a reporter and photographer from the Arizona Republic, and once more I felt so grateful that my kids are confident, yet cautious, around guns.  From the beginning, my husband and I wanted our kids to know two very important things about guns.

#1   A gun is no big deal.

Remember the scene in, “The Sixth Sense”, when a boy says to the main character, “Wanna see my dad’s gun?”  He turns toward the bedroom and you see a huge gunshot wound in the side of his head.  In our home, we don’t want guns to be mysterious forbidden fruit. After all, what is more alluring to a child?  Something they’re not allowed to see and touch or something so ordinary that it’s no big deal? image by WindRanch

I am not precluding the possibility of either of our children doing something stupid someday while around a firearm, but if they do, it certainly won’t be because they view a gun as something exciting and glamorous.  Any parent who thinks their kids don’t watch and plan for an opportune time to do something sneaky behind their backs isn’t living in the same world as me!  The last thing I want my kids to do is wait until we are gone from home and then seek out a hidden gun to, “play with.”

So, our kids have been taught how to shoot.  Both have shot a thousand rounds or more from their .22 rifles. Daughter is sniper material. Son just loves using his trigger finger and hits the target on occasion and both are happy to leave our firearms alone once we get home.  In fact, both have been known to groan and roll their eyes when they see Dad loading up the truck for another trip to the range.

The NRA is a great resource for materials to teach your child gun safety, and their Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program is available to individuals, schools, and groups and priced affordably.  Eddie Eagle’s four basic rules for kids to remember if they ever see a gun are:


Don’t touch!

Leave the area.

Tell an adult!

In addition to training and practice, our guns are kept secured in a safe place away from the kids.  We believe in layers of security, and education is just one layer.

The second thing our kids have learned about guns is,

#2   A gun is a huge deal!

A gun can take a life.  That’s a huge deal, the biggest, really, and it makes owning a firearm a serious responsibility.  Our kids have been taught to never put their finger on the trigger until they are ready to shoot.  They know to always keep the barrel of the gun pointed in a safe direction, which is never at another person, and guns remain unloaded until we are actually at the range.

A challenge parents face in this process is helping kids understand the difference between the glorified gunfights they see on TV and in the movies and what a real gun can do to a person.  When a person is shot, there is no, “Take two!”  The injured person doesn’t pop up so they can appear in the next scene.  Gunshot injuries are real, painful, and can cause massive injuries and death.

Sooner or later, most kids will encounter a real, live gun somewhere.  The gun may or may not be supervised by an adult.  It may or may not be loaded, and my kids may or may not be inclined to use the common sense God gave them.  As parents, we increase the chances our kids will do the smart thing and stay safe when there’s a gun around when we train, educate and remind, remind, remind.

The story of how we got into shooting as a family

A few years ago we made the choice to teach our children about the world of firearms, and, in the eyes of some, that qualifies us as candidates for a visit from Child Protective Services. Of course, when we first took our kids to the range, we had no idea we were embarking on an activity that would be controversial and, at times, criticized.  We also had no idea it would become such an enriching experience.

My husband is highly trained in shooting skills, so he took both kids under his wing, and in no time at all, they became proficient in the sport and respectful of the gun.  As we’ve guided our children into the world of firearms, there have been a few surprises.

What our kids have learned at the gun range

The NRA Eddie Eagle program teaches a few basic safety rules, but our kids have learned far more. They have learned to respect the rules, procedures, and authority found on a shooting range. No kid wants to be on the receiving end of the range officer’s whistle more than once! Actions always have consequences, safety isn’t an option, and they’re all the wiser for these experiences.

image by schmuck-by-nature

They’ve learned that it takes patience to line up an accurate shot. If a skill is to be mastered, it must be practiced carefully over and over again, and they have both shot hundreds of rounds with their .22 rifles. Once the fun of shooting is over, our kids have learned the importance of keeping their firearm clean and getting it ready for the next outing.  This requires responsibility, attention to detail, and planning ahead.

Real-life, practical skills are rarely taught in public schools anymore, and it’s up to parents to fill the gap with lessons in fishing, cooking, carpentry and dozens of other important, lifelong skills. Using a firearm for hunting or target shooting falls into this category, and we’ve seen our kids’ self-confidence blossom as they’ve mastered a skill they know is valuable and meaningful. Achieving a high score on a video game may bring a momentary thrill but never that deep satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something that matters.

Our firearm family hobby is just one more reason for us to spend time together doing something we all enjoy. We’ve had lots of laughs, a few tears of frustration, and brought home numerous targets to proudly display on bedroom walls. At a time when too many families find themselves drifting apart, separated by the pursuit of individual interests, a family hobby is key to bringing everyone together.  Firearms can provide that shared focus as well as a way to develop important character traits and lifelong skills.

In retrospect, the only shocking result from our family’s venture into the world of firearms has been watching our children develop confidence, patience, responsibility and attention to detail.  They’re well on their way toward mastering a useful skill that will serve them well in the future.  Are we bad parents for leading them down this path?  Hardly!  There are few activities that yield such a rich assortment of life lessons as the world of firearms.

33 thoughts on “Two Things My Kids Know About Guns”

  1. I agree with everything you say. My kids and now my granddaughter were all raised around guns and learned to use them early. My granddaughter is 5 and she has shot my .22 pistol and rifle; with help of course. I've done this to demystify the weapons. Their natural curiosity has been satisfied. My kids all learned to use my tools early, too; for the same reason.

    I have always had loaded weapons in the house and really powerful tools with really sharp blades. Safety demands that my kids understand and respect them so that the danger is reduced. It still exists, but at an acceptable level. Life kinda works this way. I figure they might as well learn that as soon as possible.

    Oh yeah. The third rule about guns that my kids learned early on in life; never answer the door without one.

    1. Kids are pretty capricious. Completely fascinated by something one day and then bored by it the next. When my kids started rolling their eyes when we asked if they wanted to go to the range, I knew we had done a good job of taking the fascination out of guns. I haven't taught them to take a gun with them when they open they door. That would completely freak out the neighbor kids, but I have had drills when I yelled out, "Kids! Hit the deck!" When they hear that, they're supposed to hit the ground, flat on their tummies. It's pretty funny, actually, but the rule about knowing what's behind your target had me worried. If I was in danger and had to shoot at a bad guy, I wouldn't do it if I didn't know my kids were in a place, safe from gunfire. So, they hit the deck, I fire, bad guy slumps to the ground. I hope I never have to put this to the test.

  2. Guns int he house = age appropriate gun safety. We hae them and ALL of ours learned,we are caring it on to the next generation. Educaton takes the fear and curiosity away. They KNOW & respect what that firearm will do

  3. As I always say, "Gun proof your kids, don't kid-proof your guns." One statistic not so often talked about is that gun accidents happen far less frequently in homes where kids are safely educated about guns, than in homes where they are not. Part of the propoganda by gun haters is that guns are these evil things that do nasty things by themselves. Simply untrue. Good post Lisa!

    1. I'd really like to read more about gun accidents in gun-smart homes. It just makes sense that a combination of education and supervised exposure to guns is a smarter approach than hiding guns or banning them.

  4. One other thing we've taught our kids: guns are private – you DO NOT talk about them to your friends. We don't need anyone knowing what we may or may not have to defend ourselves, or what they may or may not find worth trying to steal. And I don't feel like hearing about it if they tell someone who hates firearms.

    1. Yep! And my son is our neighborhood's Good Time Charlie and loves to keep all the kids entertained. It was so hard for him to keep his mouth shut about our guns, but now the novelty has worn off, and he's not nearly as excited about them anymore. It sound like you've taken a very smart approach in teaching your kids about guns.

  5. Thank you so much for your post on this subject. I have been an NRA Instructor/Training Counselor for about 10 years now. I specialize in teaching people How to Teach Youth. It Is so important to teach respect for the firearm.
    There may not be a second chance if an error is made. the important thing that parents need to remember is their role in the Eddie Eagle program. It is to be sure to take ALL gun handling seriously and respond if a youth comes to you with the notification of a gun.
    Handling a gun should always be done with respect. Passing a gun to another and saying, "Thank you, I have it." notifies the handlers that a secure passage is being obtained for the gun. I remind the youth that someone is handing them an expensive and delicate piece of equipment. Always be careful to be a good example to those around you when handling a gun.
    If there was ever a time to watch TV with your kids is during a show about guns. It could be a Spaghetti Western, crime show drama or documentary on PBS, History Channel or Discovery. They always bring safe gun handling topics to light. Even if you don't see one on screen be sure you are aware of how the seen had to be shot (were you looking down the barrel of a gun?)
    I believe that target shooting and hunting can be lifetime sports and good for the environment. Be sure to continue encouraging your daughter. Girls are frequently better shots than boys, I think it is their patience.

    1. That is all excellent advice, Karen. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and knowledge. I think it's counter-intuitive to a lot of parents that the best way to gun-proof your kids ISN'T hiding the gun, not having one, pretending they don't even exist or that "nice" people don't own them. It's the reverse in fact, isn't it? The more they know, they more they respect what a gun can do in both the wrong and the right hands. I so appreciate your comment. Thank you!

    2. I took a driving course on a race track. I think I was doing better than the guys because the guys wanted to go fast and THEN work on getting the line right. ("The line" is an imaginary line that, if followed, allows you to go through a track at the fastest possible speed.) Being a girl, I wanted to get the line down, and then work on increasing my speed. Guess which approach is more effective? I'm guessing it's the same thought process at work with firearms – girls work on sighting, etc, first, and boys just want to shoot, so the girls are better shots. Which is a long-winded way of saying the same thing – girls have more patience.

      1. You are so right Liz. The boys all think that they are RAMBO and of course they know better than some woman instructor. Each summer I have to earn my stripes with the young 20 something instructors who will teach the kids at camp. Within five targets I need to shoot five rounds in a grouping no larger than a dime with a camp 22 caliper rifle at 15 yards. Not always easy, I don't always have the opportunity to shoot much in the off-season, but the class runs so much smoother after I show them that I can do and not just teach it.
        This also follows that guys dislike asking for directions!

        1. Karen, that is so funny because the gal who taught the very first handgun class I ever took said the same thing! Guys are much, much harder to teach than women.

    1. It's amazing how data can be so skewed when a group of people want to use it to fit their template, namely, "guns are evil." If you listen to the New Hampshire Public Radio interview, pay attention to how the interviewer says the word, "guns." LOL

      1. In LA, the preschool actually taught my kids that "gun" is a bad word. Nice. And those are the folks who control our media.

        Survival Mom, I agree about skewing data. It's like that quote that 95%(?) of guns involved in Mexican killings were American. The percentage was right, but it wasn't of the TOTAL number of firearms involved. I can't remember all the numbers correctly now since it was last summer, but it was something like 40% of the weapons had serial numbers, most of the rest were made in China, Russia, or somewhere else in the world. No point even attempting to trace those. Of the 40%, not all were registered, and therefore none of the unregistered ones were traceable. However, of the remaining firearms that did have a serial number, were registered, and were not made somewhere like Russia that would preclude them being registered, 95%(?) of THOSE were American firearms. So, the only ones they could actually trace were from here. What does that tell you about the rest of the world? Not what the liberal media wants you to think.

  6. Heard yesterday, did a survey.
    They found that 45% of those they surveyed believe gun ownership is NOT a right.

    1. Where did they do a survey? If they want to get 100% saying that, they can go just about anywhere in NYC, LA or SF. If they want to get 100% saying it IS, then they can pick lots of areas in the "flyover states". It's just a matter of where you are and / or what you want to prove.

      They're located in DC. They have BY FAR the most restrictive gun laws in the country. It's a disaster of a city on soooo many levels. And MD is also pretty restrictive. You can't carry, period, in DC unless you're in one of a few very limited categories, such as Police Officer. MD won't let you conceal carry unless you can prove you're in one of those categories or have a job where you have to carry cash on a regular basis – and a lot of it. If you have a weapon in your car in MD, the firearm and ammo have to be in separate locked compartments, like the glove box and trunk. Yeah, that's useful in an emergency. Somehow, I doubt they'd get the same numbers if they went outside of their little bubble.

  • Another way to take some of the mystery out of firearms is to make sure that the kids know they can see/handle them any time they want… with me present. If they touched one of my firearms when I wasn't present there would be severe consequences.

    In our house it was a standing rule that if the kids wanted to see/handle any of my firearms all they had to do was ask and I would drop what I was doing and we would get the firearm out that they were curious about. After they recited the four rules of safe firearm handling they could handle the unloaded firearms. Then we would review the various parts of the particular firearm, how to operate it, and other misc details about it.

    This was in addition to regular range time.

  • I agree with you so much on teaching your children about weapons. I grew up in the 60's and 70's era and my dad had all our weapons right on one wall, within reach of anyone in the house. Usually one of them was always loaded also. He taught us to respect those weapons, how to handle them and most of all how to unload one. If we had been out hunting or just shooting we HAD to unload before entering the house and unloading meant after you unloaded the weapon and before you entered the house you pointed the weapon straight down to the ground and you pulled the trigger. That is when you knew it was unloaded, then you could come inside.
    My dad use to say, " Do not point a weapon at someone unless you intent to kill him."

  • About a month or so ago I was over to my best friends house and his teen son had a friend over. They were playing around with a couple of toy guns and no sooner did I arrive this friend pointed his weapon at me. I immediately (in my best drill instructor voice) told him, "NEVER POINT A WEAPON AT ANYONE!". I was staring him down and he almost dropped the weapon and soiled himself. I can say I bet he had never been taught anything about weapons and you can see what he did as soon as he had one in his hands. You have to teach you kids, plain and simple. A gun does not kill, the idiot holding it does.

    1. I have a friend who is very ambiguous about owning a gun, but I told her emphatically that her kids at least need gun safety training. A kid who is well-trained in gun safety, even if they haven't been taught to actually shoot, is still far safer around guns than a kid who has only seen them on TV.

  • When my nephew was about 6, he had already shot a .44 and knew damn well not to do it again unless it was for real. Once, he asked if he could play Nintendo in my room, and I knew he knew about guns – I had a Shotgun in the room but knew there weren't any shells around. In a few minutes, he came up and mentioned that there was a gun in the corner. I asked if it bothered him and if he could just leave it there. He said OK and bounded down the stairs. I knew I could feel safe because he had his own BB gun and his folks said he was very good around guns

  • When my children were preschool/early elementary age I was ant- anything violent. No toy guns-including squirt guns and Nerf and very controlled tv watching. We did have 2 guns in the house buy the kids didn’t even know they existed. Now, it’s another story. My son won a BB gun at a turkey Federation event he attended with her grandfather. I even said, “Don’t win a gun!” Well, now the boys are almost 11 and 14. They have bb guns and airsoft guns they rarely use. We took them to the shooting range a few weeks ago and ha dthe younger one shoot a .22 and the older one shoot dad’s 9mm. They were pretty good aims. We also let them shoot out back that week as well. (We live very rural now.) So they are learning. Started at ages 6 and 9 with the bb gun.

    I was afraid of the handgun for many years and only would consider shooting the shotgun. Now I am learning to shoot both.

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