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5 Things parents must do if they own guns

Rebecca Bahret is a freelance writer and proud Facebook junkie. After eleven years in law enforcement doing everything from evidence collection to undercover narcotics, she is content in her latest (and favorite) assignment: Mommy. She i...

How to be a good gun owner and a parent at the same time

Kids are remarkable creatures. They are crafty and inquisitive and able to accomplish way more than adults usually give them credit for. This ability is fantastic when the task at hand is macrame planters, not so great when we’re talking about locating a firearm and figuring out how to shoot it.

So far this year, 43 kids have found a way to make a gun go bang and hurt someone, which is inexcusable. Being a gun owner must include responsibly securing your gun at all times from any unauthorized person, especially a child.

So how do you do that? SheKnows spoke with gun safety experts Mark Luell of Growing Up Guns and Shawn Pappas of Suarez International Firearms Training. Both Luell and Pappas are certified firearms instructors, tasked with training police, military and civilians in proper gun use and safety. More important, though, both are fathers, tasked with raising children in a home where guns are a necessity by occupation. Luell and Pappas offered up these tips for living in a home with both guns and children:

How to be a good gun owner and a parent at the same time
Image: Terese Condella/SheKnows

More: Why you need to learn to shoot with a kid in your arms

Always lock them away

“If you are not in direct control of the firearm, it needs to be locked away. On top of a shelf or under a sofa doesn't count. Think your child doesn't know it's there and can't reach it? Think again," says Luell. Cost should never be a factor either — this combination gun vault is just $25, and you can even get this simple gun lock for free.

Always store your ammunition and your guns separately

"A gun without ammunition is just an expensive club,” says Pappas. If there is no way to make the gun fire, no one can be shot.

More: Babywearing and gun-carrying class trains parents to do both safely

Teach your kids what to do should they find a gun

Pappas says, “Stop. Don’t touch. Get away. Tell a trustworthy adult.” “Stop” can buy them precious time to remember what else you’ve taught them. An undisturbed gun will not fire, making “don’t touch” vitally important. Kids need to know to “get away” from the gun, even if it means leaving a friend’s home abruptly in the middle of a playdate should they find a gun stuck in a couch. And kids need to understand who they can trust to tell — ideally it should be you.

Unmask the mystery

“Make the gun a part of your everyday life, and introduce your child to it early,” says Luell. “Tell them they can handle it (don't use the word ‘play’) whenever they want, as long as you are there with them. Let them watch you clean it, dry fire, and so on. Removing the mystery early is key.” You can use Nerf or Airsoft replicas to introduce them to safe gun handling, but be sure to make the distinction between the “real” gun and the “fake” one, and always emphasize the fact that guns are not toys.

More: Toy guns: Harmless fun or mixed messages

“Your children will learn from TV and media about guns unless you step in and educate them first. Don't let them think it's a game or that guns are to be taken lightly," Luell said. “It’s easier to train a child than a gun,” says Pappas. “All that your children have, especially when they leave your home and supervision, is the knowledge and guidance you have given them.” You have a moral and often legal obligation to give them the tools and information they need should you not be there to help them.

U.S. Marine and creator of the modern technique of handgun shooting Jeff Cooper is credited the four fundamental rules of firearms safety: 1) Consider all guns to be loaded, 2) never point at something you don’t intend to shoot, 3) keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire, and 4) don’t fire until you can see what you are hitting (and what may be behind it).

All gun owners must follow this list, but according to Luell, there should be a fifth rule: Prevent access to your firearms by all unauthorized people. Children are at the very top of that list of people. If all gun owners would take Luell’s proposed fifth rule as seriously as the other four, children shooting guns should no longer be an issue.

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