Kids and Guns, Safety First, Foremost and Always

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These are just some ideas and observations about my experience with guns and children and before engaging in teaching a young person about guns you are advised to use a hunter safety program and do your own further research about local rules and regulations. It is also wise to asses the level of maturity and judgement ability of each young person and their ability to follow the rules of gun safety. When teaching shooting sports to children and other I make sure to refer to the gun as a pistol, rifle or shotgun and I do not use the term weapon at all. Teaching proper use of a firearm for a weapon can come later, when and if the family decides use for self defense is appropriate and that is another topic altogether.

Gun Education is the responsibility of parents and safety is paramount. Most young children, both boys and girls will show an interest in guns at an early age, at four or five years old they will pick up sticks, make lego guns or play with their own toy guns and make phew, phew sounds shooting imaginary animals, enemies and their friends. Each family can decide how to handle the interest and that decision deserves respect. Some might want to make sure the child knows that guns are never to be in their home, guns are evil, devices of destruction and they should play with other toys and other games.

Other folks who have guns in the house have an obligation to explain patiently to a child that a gun can be dangerous, persons or animals who are shot with guns can be injured and die. (Explaining death to a four year old does not make much sense to me so I am comfortable telling a child that a real gun can make a hole in a person that will hurt them badly and send them to the hospital for a long time with a follow up that we never, ever want to have that happen.) This is also the time to explain that for reasons of safety, if the child ever sees a gun, anywhere that does not have a grown up with it, she should never touch it or any ammunition that goes with guns and she has an obligation to not let any other kids touch the gun while someone gets a grownup to match up with the gun and take charge of the gun. Kids can understand this concept and they have a desire to be responsible and to the right thing. They have already been told to treat every gun as if it is loaded and we, grownups and children know never point a gun at anything we don’t want to see shoot.

When my grandchildren accompanied us to a gun range or on a hunting trip for the first time I liked to set an unopened can of tomatoes up and shoot it with a gun, ten feet away with a shotgun or pistol or any range with a center fire rifle and we share the visual experience as the burst the can sends lots of red stuff all over the place. Now we also know that our children must have hearing protection and eye protection anytime they are present with any shooting activity without exception. This requirement is the same way they wear life jackets for any boating activity, with repletion our safety rules become habits and kids always like gear that goes with any sports activities.

 When grand daughter was eleven years old shooting an M-1 Carbine, she understood how to line up the sights and her grouping was very nice.

When grand daughter was eleven years old shooting an M-1 Carbine, she understood how to line up the sights and her grouping was very nice.

Please don’t let the little ones start pulling the trigger on a firearm until they are old enough, and of an adequate size to have control of the firearm and they have had a good deal of time away from the range at home learning the principles of safety and actually handling the gun without ammunition and instruct them in the proper technique of clearing every gun they are allowed to shoot. Small single shot .22’s are good for starting grade school kids because they can learn proper operation of the action and how to shoot without being pounded by recoil and they will learn that their small .22 can be deadly.

There are a lot of good courses available for teach gun safety to children, Scouting, 4-H, hunter safety, NRA Eddie Eagle and others. In most cases young people will pay more attention when gun handling instruction is presented by a teacher, especially if there is the chance of shooting and receiving a completion certificate. This type of instruction is good when kids are ten or eleven and have reached a size to safely handle a gun engaging in shooting sports. A request that have is that during the introduction of any shooting that the newcomer not be given a gun to use that is too powerful. Some think it is funny to allow a newcomer, child or grownup, to shoot a magnum load out of a pistol, shotgun or rifle and laugh when it puts them on their butt. Of course that is a good way to make sure the person never wants to shoot again and dislikes guns for the rest of their life.

This is just an overview touching on a few high points of shooting with youngsters so please use your own experience and knowledge to help our future gun sports folk make their transition into responsible people who know how to safely handle guns. Remember, always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off and away from the trigger and keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Never pick up a gun without clearing it to insure it is not loaded and if you set it down and are not in direct control of the gun, pick it up again and insure it is clear.

About the Author

Joe McElyea
I am an original member and founder of the esteemed High Plains Shooting and Dining Society which is dedicated to fellowship of bird hunters and shooters who also enjoy finding great local places to eat large, unhealthy portions of breaded and fried meats and gravies washed down with the appropriate libations. I am also a retired old man who enjoys fishing, shooting and my wonderful family.