When is the right time to introduce your kids to the world of firearms?
For the most part, it really depends on the child (we’ll get back to that in a moment) and your willingness to fully communicate the do’s-&-don’ts of gun handling and the potential risks if they are misused. Whether you simply own a handgun for personal protection or are a ‘shooting’ family that hunts or participates in sport shooting, a child’s understanding of guns will be of benefit.
Some may say that introducing children to firearms early will only serve to heighten their interest, their desire to shoot and will put them on a path toward some sort of delinquent or violent behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Having a familiarity with guns, how they work and the potential danger involved actually helps to reinforce the ‘practicality’ of guns as tools, demystifies the whole concept of shooting and teaches a healthy respect for weapons in general. Guns don’t have to be viewed as the cool, forbidden fruit that is coveted by a child. Kids get enough exposure to glorified gunplay and violence in movies, TV shows and video games, and they are often desensitized to the reality of what it means to shoot something or someone. It’s your job as a responsible parent to teach them well and to consistently reinforce safety principles.
Can’t speak for everyone of course (don’t want to presume), but a lot of folks would normally teach their kids about the risks of smoking, alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, or unprotected sex. You might even have a family plan for house fires, medical emergencies or natural disasters – so why not guns? The bottom-line is that there are more guns than there are people in this country, so the likelihood that you have them in your home or know someone who does is pretty high. They aren’t going anywhere, so sticking your head in the sand won’t help. Better to be informed.
Instill Respect – Not Fear
Teaching kids about guns does not mean scaring the heck out them about the potential mayhem that may be in-store. Being nervous around guns isn’t safe either. They just have to understand what they are, how they work, how to handle them safely and what to do if they ever come across one (at home or elsewhere). There are a number of unfortunate accidents that occur every year that likely could have been avoided if the children involved had had the benefit of some basic knowledge. You often hear of a weapon being ‘found’, the kid’s curiosity gets the better of them and then an accident happens because they didn’t know, for instance, that a round had been chambered. How would they know unless someone had explained it to them? Simply saying ‘Don’t Touch’ doesn’t really cut it.
So When Is the Right Time?
There are a lot of variables here, so it’s really up to the parents to exercise some common sense when teaching kids about firearms. You could have a responsible, thoughtful 8 year old from a hunting family vs. a young teen with a short attention span and/or a history of reckless behavior. You have to make an informed call. Some kids never get there (and that’s OK), but some will naturally express an interest and begin asking questions at some point. That’s always a good place to start.
Even if you know a child may not be mentally or physically mature enough to actually shoot for years, they can sill learn the basics in order to foster familiarity and a sense of safety. When they are ready, it’s important not to push them too quickly and to take your time. It should be a fun and informative experience for them. Remember that it’s a journey. Many kids start out with some form of low-velocity air or ‘BB’ gun that is a perfect way for them to gain confidence and to learn safety and marksmanship without having to deal with the noise, recoil and potential fear of handling a real gun. The emphasis being that these are not toys and they can still cause some real damage if handled improperly. The next step is typically to move onto a kid-friendly .22 as part of the process.
See the CZ 455 Training rifle on this site as a good example:
Safety Still Rules
Please don’t get the idea that you should take your eye off general gun safety and storage just because your kids may be more informed. This process is really just one more layer of caution that helps to protect your family. As always, firearms should be locked and stored securely when not actively in-use. It’s best not to make any assumptions. Also, gauge your teaching methods and level of detail based on the age, maturity of a child and whether they’ll be an active participant with you for sport or hunting. There’s a big difference in the approach if they’ll be shooting vs. if you’re just trying to prepare them if they ever accidently come across a gun in someone’s home.
You’re Not Alone
Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help teach your kids once the time is right. Some readers may be more than qualified to handle the task of instructing, but sometimes hearing it from someone else or having the information presented in a different way can help hold a child’s attention better. Aside from local clubs and ranges that may offer certified instruction, organizations like the NRA, 4H and Boy Scouts offer programs for youth teaching.
Keeping children up-to-speed on gun awareness and safety can be a responsible way as a parent to help ensure their wellbeing. You don’t even have to be a major advocate of gun use, but there will always be benefit in providing common sense information, reducing potential fear and empowering them to think straight and make the right choices. As previously stated, the guns are here to stay so there’s not much sense pretending otherwise or NOT addressing the issue even if it offends your sensibilities.
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