So far this year, 43 kids have found a way to shoot a gun and hurt someone, which is inexcusable. If you must keep guns in your home, you must also responsibly secure your gun at all times — away from any unauthorized person, especially a child.
How do you do that? Mark Luell of Growing Up Guns and Shawn Pappas of Suarez International Firearms Training weighed in. 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 their occupations require them to keep guns. Luell and Pappas offered up these tips for living in a home with both guns and children.
“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. And no, "it's expensive to lock them" isn't an excuse; this combination gun vault is just $25.
"A gun without ammunition is just an expensive club,” says Pappas.
“Stop. Don’t touch. Get away. Tell a trustworthy adult," Pappas says. “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 whom they can trust to tell — and that may not be the friend's parent who owns the gun.
“Let them watch you clean it, dry fire and so on," from a safe distance, Luell suggests. "Removing the mystery early is key," as is emphasizing that these are dangerous weapons. Be sure to make a distinction between any real guns your child sees — in real life or on TV — and toy versions. Always emphasize the fact that guns are not toys and steer kids clear of both if you can.
“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 with the four fundamental rules of firearms safety.
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. If all gun owners would take Luell’s proposed fifth rule as seriously as the other four, no child would ever accidentally shoot a gun — and we'd all sleep easier.
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