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    K I D S
    P A G E

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    Not Just For Kids


    Guns have always played an important role in America's history, and they are still a fundamental part of American life. The United States Constitution guarantees our right to keep and bear arms. Federal officials estimate there are guns in one half of the households in the country, and in Arizona that figure may be even higher. Remember all the pioneer families who had a gun on a rack near the door? For hundreds of years, guns have been safely kept in millions of homes across the nation. While my purpose is not to debate the pros and cons of guns, I hope this article will be a means to tell your children about gun safety and responsible gun ownership.

    Gun safety is a subject that every parent and child should know about, whether or not you have firearms in your own home. This is because even if you don't have a gun, someone you know probably does. Your child could come into contact with guns at a neighbor's house or when playing with friends. So even if you take appropriate safety precautions, how can you protect your child in someone else's home? What would happen if one of your child's friends started playing with a gun or showing off their father's weapon? Would your child know what to do? It is important to teach your child what to do in such a situation. For example, you might tell him to never touch a gun (whether it's loaded or not), to immediately leave the area if a gun is present, to contact an adult if he or a friend finds a gun, and to urge his friends to be safe around guns.

    If you own a gun, everyone in your household should get safety instruction, including children. A knowledge of the mechanics of how guns work will lead to an understanding of their effects and what can happen if one is used incorrectly. Under close supervision, children can be allowed to handle an unloaded weapon to satisfy their curiosity, so they will be less likely to seek it out when no one is around. Trying to keep guns a secret from children is not an appropriate precaution. Parents often mistakenly believe their child doesn't know where a gun is kept, but chances are that they do. Children are naturally curious and are more aware than you may think.

    Children often fail to use common sense, but hopefully by being well informed they will know enough to protect themselves from a potential accident. Children should be educated about the dangers of firearms in much the same way they are instructed about other potentially life-threatening situations. We teach our children to "Just say No" to drugs, and if a child's clothes catch on fire, they are told to "Stop, drop, and roll." What if you want to warn children about guns? The National Rifle Association has an award-winning safety program featuring "Eddie Eagle," who cautions children that if they find a gun they should: "Stop! Don't Touch! Leave the Area. Tell an Adult."

    It is never too soon to talk to your child about guns. At an early age, they should be taught not to touch firearms. Young children have difficulty comprehending the permanence of death, but they need to know that if they play with guns, they can be hurt. Any reasonably bright preschooler can fire one, and kids - particularly those who are four to ten years old - often try to emulate their parents' behavior. Emphasize that guns are weapons - not toys. Tell young children to run from them and teach older children gun safety.

    Keep in mind that gun safety education is ongoing and has to be repeated at all levels. It cannot just be taught once and forgotten. At age five and up, parents should discuss hypothetical scenarios with their children, such as "What do you do when you're at someone else's house and they get out a gun?" Then tell them what they should do. A firearm safety class is a good way to teach children respect for guns. Children ages ten and older can enroll in shooting instruction classes. These gun courses should be taught by qualified instructors and can include hunter education, gun safety training, and basic marksmanship. Later, if the parents choose, their children can also learn about responsible firearms ownership.

    As important as it is for novice shooters to know how to properly handle a gun, it is equally important for every shooter to have ingrained in him the cardinal rules of firearm safety. This can never be overstressed. Tell them not to fall for the old cliché, "I didn't know it was loaded." Guns should always be handled as if they are loaded, and should never, ever, be aimed at anyone. If enrollment in a course is not feasible, the burden of responsibility for proper firearm training naturally falls on the shoulders of the parents.

    At most accidental shootings, a lack of experience and education are evident along with availability of a weapon. Tragedies occur most often when children are left unsupervised with unstructured time on their hands. Most gun-related deaths of children occur in either their homes or the homes of friends or relatives. In the majority of cases, parents are not at home when a shooting occurs. Weekends, school breaks, and summer vacations are the most lethal seasons for kids with access to guns. Because children may not always remember their lessons or act on them when they are playing with other children, it is crucial for your child to understand that you or some other responsible adult must be present whenever a gun is handled.

    Parents may want to ask other families if they have guns in the home and how they are stored. A few people may be offended by the question, but most will understand that it's a valid concern. Most weapons involved in domestic accidents are found by children in bedrooms (in dressers, on closet shelves, under beds and pillows, between mattresses) or in living rooms (in end tables or between couch cushions). It is the parent's responsibility to make sure guns are kept out of the reach of children. When handling or cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended, even for a moment. Don't forget to put it away in a safe place the minute you are done using it. There is no excuse for leaving a loaded weapon lying around. A responsible gun owner will always keep their gun locked up and inaccessible to children. Even if you train your own child, a playmate could still shoot someone with your gun.

    Besides storing guns where children cannot get to them, trigger guards and cable locks can be used to make a firearm inoperable. Putting the hasp of a standard padlock behind the trigger will also prevent accidental firing. Guns can be kept in locked cabinets or safes. Several companies manufacture gun boxes that can be bolted to the floor or wall if desired, and have push-button combinations that take only seconds to open, even in the dark. That way, a loaded gun can be stored securely and will still be easily accessible. In the absence of such safety devices, loaded guns should not be in the house, and bullets should be kept in a separate place.

    Safety experts agree that gun accidents are, for the most part, completely preventable. The common denominators in many child shootings are neglect and carelessness. It is sad to think of how many firearms incidents could have been prevented if parents were simply more safety conscious and more aware of their children's activities. Adult education about where and how to store firearms, and educating children about responsible gun handling should both be emphasized. Children don't need to be afraid of guns, but they should have a healthy respect for their power. After all, guns are inanimate objects that are completely safe when taken care of properly.

    Consider trying "kid control" instead of "gun control." Children deserve to grow up in homes filled with love and parents who dare to discipline, and where "law and order" is a respected term. Today's kids are no different than pioneer children. All they need is an adult to care about them and give them guidelines as to what is right and wrong. Parents who share time with their children will be able to discuss important issues, teach them many lessons, demonstrate proper habits by example, and earn their respect. Responsibility has to be learned, not forced.

    Another point to keep in mind is that children and adolescents with emotional or behavioral disorders are more likely to use guns against themselves or others. Parents who are concerned that their child might have an emotional problem may want to seek an evaluation by a child psychologist. Likewise, children often imitate what they see on television and in movies and computer games. They may become more aggressive after extensive exposure to violence. Parents should protect their children from the effects of watching violence. They can limit the viewing of violence and they can watch with their children, disapprove of violent episodes, emphasize that what they're watching is fake and that things don't happen that way in real life.

    Educating children seems to be the most reasonable way to reduce gun accidents, just as with driving, drugs, alcohol, and fire safety. No matter which side of the gun control issue you are on, you must admit that there will continue to be guns around for the foreseeable future, and that children shouldn't be shooting each other. The best way to protect children right now is for everyone to get together on the idea that gun safety instruction is important and to immediately utilize preventive measures. This plan of action is a quicker, more direct approach than trying to pass more laws, and it's a lot easier than getting millions of Americans to give up their guns. Let us worry about legislative debates tomorrow. Today we can save some lives.


    1. Make sure all guns are unloaded until ready to use, and never assume that a gun is unloaded.
    2. Keep guns securely locked up, out of sight and reach of children.
    3. Equip guns with trigger guards and other childproof devices.
    4. Store ammunition away from guns and sources of heat.
    5. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction-never aim a gun at anyone-and keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    6. Don't buy toy guns as playthings for children.
    7. Never demonstrate unsafe behavior with guns.
    8. Ask other parents whether they keep guns at home and how they are stored.
    9. Take personal responsibility for your children's supervision and safety education.
    10. Be aware that certain types of guns and shooting activities require additional safety precautions.


    The Ben Avery Shooting Facility at Carefree Hwy. & I-17 is open to men, women, and children of all ages and experience. They offer basic orientation, gun safety instruction, beginning firearms training, and hunter education. They also have a Junior Shooters program for both new and experienced young shooters. Their goal is to provide a safe and fun environment, to teach responsibility, safe gun handling, and set goals in marksmanship under the guidance of expert instructors. Ammunition is provided and range rifles are available at no charge, or you may bring your own. Newcomers and their parent or guardian are required to attend a safety orientation meeting. Call the Ben Avery office at 623-582-8313 regarding these programs.

    Shooter's World, an indoor shooting range in Phoenix, offers instruction for shooters of all ages and skill levels. They have a free gun safety class for children. This class is intended to instill respect for firearms and reduce the curiosity factor by teaching how a firearm operates. It also teaches them what to do if they come into unsupervised contact with a firearm. Call 602-266-2600 for more information.

    The Scottsdale Gun Club has numerous classes and courses that are all designed to make you a more knowledgeable, accurate, and safer shooter. Through education and safety, they strive to strengthen the sport of shooting, and enhance your shooting experience.


    More information about gun safety can be found online at the following websites: - Click on "Safety & Training" for general gun safety rules, or parents and teachers can click on "Eddie Eagle" to learn more about this award-winning gun safety program for children and to order educational materials. - 12 Basic Firearms Safety Rules, from the manufacturers of Glock pistols.


    These pages are a continuous work in progress.
    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    All rights reserved.


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