Think back to when you were a kid – did you get into mischief? Did you search for, and find, Christmas or birthday gifts your parents intended to give you as a surprise? What about your parents’ stuff – ever rummage through their things – ever find something you wish you hadn’t – ever get into your dad’s case of Busch Light or your mom’s box of Franzia? Well, I’m here to tell you, regardless how sweet and innocent you believe your precious baby boy or girl to be, your kids do (or will do) the same thing.
Most of the time this type of behavior is motivated purely by curiosity and is perfectly normal. Usually, the worst thing that happens is dad gets embarrassed because his son found a stash of vintage Playboys, or mom wants to hide under a rock when little Johnny asks her what a “personal massager” is. It doesn’t matter how well you hide things; a curious child will defeat a clever hiding place ten times out of ten.
If your kids can locate your unmentionables, you better believe they can, and will, locate your guns. What’s more worrisome is that they will likely handle those guns – especially if guns are a mystery to them. You can lock your guns in safes or closets, store them separately from ammunition, or take any other measures necessary to keep them beyond the reach of your children. Those are all excellent options and will lead to you having a safer home for your kids and your guns. However, “out of sight” doesn’t always mean “out of mind.” Child-proofing your guns is a good thing and you should absolutely do that, but, when coupled with counter-meddling measures, gun-proofing your children is far more effective than any lock and key alone.
If you’re at all like me, curiosity can consume you – whether it be for an hour or a matter of months or years. I read, I watch videos, I listen to various commentary, and if it’s something I can physically get my hands on – like a new gun – then I think about that thing until my curiosity, and ultimately my interest, is satisfied. Currently, the possible release of a new NCAA Football video game has me all in a tizzy – but I digress. If adults can become consumed by curiosity, just imagine what a powerful force curiosity is for a child or teenager. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t have to imagine it – we can simply remember – even though as adults it’s unflattering to admit we ever acted like children.
Whether you own a single gun, an arsenal of weaponry, or no gun at all – I believe you should limit your children’s curiosity by exposing them to guns, and, more importantly, to the responsibilities associated with gun ownership and gun handling. If you’re not a gun owner, you’re probably not worried about your kids encountering a gun in your home – but what about their friends’ homes? You can’t control the safety practices of other people, and your kids need to know how to avoid danger when you’re not around.
Start early in your child’s life with age-appropriate lessons and interactions. For example, when my daughter was a toddler and a case of ammunition would arrive at our door, she’d help me transfer the freedom seeds from the original packaging into an ammo can. She was downright eager to dump 1,000-2,000 bullets from one container to another – 50 rounds at a time. While we worked, we talked, and she began committing my lessons to memory. I have the most amazing video of my then 4-year-old daughter sitting in front of a disassembled AK-47, saying “We clean the Kalashnikov!” when I asked her “What do we do during quarantine?” Brings a tear of joy to my eye every time.
You know your own children and their maturity levels. It’s up to you as a parent to determine, based on their capacity to learn and ability to behave, what they are and are not capable of doing. What you might not realize, or may choose to ignore, are areas where you are deficient. I can tell by watching someone lift a gun off of a table if they’re an amateur or an experienced practitioner of gun safety. Your children cannot. When you come home from hunting, how do you carry your rifle when you stroll through the house? Do you put your duck gun in the cab of your truck muzzle first with your child already seated inside?
Kids don’t always listen, but they ALWAYS watch. Are you setting for them an example that will keep them safe or one that might cause them harm? When paraphrasing Proverbs 22:6, Charles Spurgeon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go – but be sure you go that way yourself.” If you’re unsure about the gun safety example you’re setting, refer to the only legitimate litmus test available – the four universal firearm safety rules. Are you adhering to them AT ALL TIMES, or just when it’s convenient? In case you’re unfamiliar with these rules, I’ve included them at the end of the article.
Some common BS excuses following an unintended shooting are “I was cleaning it.” “I thought it was unloaded.” “I didn’t see them there.” Or my newest favorite – “So, you never pulled the trigger?” “No, no, no, no, no!” “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.” If someone tries to feed you one of these lines when explaining how something or someone was wrongfully shot, you can bet your sweet ass they’re trying to avoid humiliation or criminal / civil liability. Please understand that the term “accidental discharge” or “A-D,” is a complete fallacy. Any time a gun goes off, it’s either intentional or negligent – there is no gray area. If you have a negligent discharge, you are responsible for the consequences. If your minor child has an “N-D,” you are responsible for that too.
In order to gun-proof your kids, you have to be squared away. You have to teach them early and often, and you have to be the example. If you don’t teach them, someone else will. They’ll learn from some other kid, a video game, or a movie. When it comes to the safety of your children, who do you trust most? Yourself, I’m sure. Are you worthy of your own trust, or do you need to be better? Don’t deceive yourself answering that question – it could be the difference between life and death. So, arm your kids – not with guns, but with knowledge – so that when they find their way to a gun (or vice versa) they won’t become a statistic. Someday, they’ll be a shining example for their own children because you instilled an enduring sense of safety and responsibility.
Consider this – do your children see you handling guns properly or do they just see you handling guns?
Avoid what you can. Defeat what you can’t.
Please submit your questions to Ryan via email at Ryan@9and1tactical.com
(Ryan Barnette is not a licensed attorney or a medical provider, and no information provided in “Slicing the Pie,” or any other publication authored by Ryan Barnette should be construed, in any way, as official legal or medical advice.)
- Treat all guns as if they’re always loaded.
- Never point a gun at anything unless you’re willing to destroy that thing.
- Know you’re target and what’s beyond it.
- Keep your finger off the trigger, until your sights are on the target, and you’ve made the decision to fire.