If there is one thing that pisses me off, it's when a parent brings their child to the gun range before teaching them anything about the safety rules. A man was recently doing some target shooting with his son, and the teenage boy accidentally shot himself in the head, taking his own life.
Before any child ever picks up a gun for the first time (or any time for that matter), they need to have a solid understanding of the four rules of firearms safety. Our resident certified gun instructor, Eve Flanigan walked us through the 4 firearms safety rules in great detail and our other instructor/LEO, has broken down some of the programs out there to help you teach kids about firearm safety. Going a step further than that, here are a few tips I've used to help children understand firearms safety:
- First, your child needs to know what a gun is, and what it is capable of doing. Show him/her your gun, and tell them to never touch it unless you're there. If he does, he could seriously hurt someone—including himself. Make sure he understands that if it is misused or mishandled, it could be deadly.
- Second, help your child learn the nomenclature of the gun. In all seriousness, you can't expect your child to not “muzzle” someone, if they don't know what a muzzle is. There are different ways you can do this. I recommend showing them on the gun they'll be spending a lot of time with. Show and explain to them each part of the gun, as well as how it can kill them or someone else if they aren't careful. Don't sugar coat it. When things aren't taken seriously, people get hurt. Taking it a step further than that, print out a picture of their gun, and write down what each part of the gun is for them to memorize. After they've had the drawing or picture for a week, take it away and quiz them with the actual gun. Ask them to show you where the muzzle is, where the sights are, what the butt stock is supposed to do, etc. If they don't get them ALL right, give them back the drawing or picture to study some more.
- Once they pass the test (which should be given a few different times, and periodically throughout your time together before going to the range), move on to the next step. Write out the basic safety rules onto a piece of paper. Hand it to him/her, and have them memorize what the basic 4 rules of firearms safety are. Then, take away the paper they're written on, and quiz him/her on the rules. If they can't pass, give them back the paper and have them memorize the rules some more.
- Once they pass, visually inspect a firearm that you've cleared and have shown to be empty. Make sure you show the child that it is empty. This develops good handling habits. Explain that whenever handing someone else a firearm, that it should be unloaded with the action open. Place it on the table, and watch your child's reaction to it. If there is fear, tell them that the gun cannot hurt them unless it is misused. Instruct your child to pick it up, while you remain conscious of where the muzzle is. If the child looks like he will flag himself or anyone else, take it away and explain why that is bad. Don't be a dick, but don't hold back, either. You don't want to scare the kid into being afraid of the gun, but you want him to have respect for it because it can kill if misused.
- Do this a few times. Once your child begins to use proper muzzle awareness and is able to keep his finger straight and off the trigger, teach your child the mechanics of shooting. Constantly reiterate the basic rules of firearms safety. This is not a one and done deal. When in the Marines, these rules were drilled into us all the time. You should refresh your own memory from time to time, as well as your child's each time you go to the range.
- Each time you go to the range, go over the range's rules. Go over commands. Explain to them what going cold VS going hot means, and what is expected once it's called. Your range may use different terminology than what I just used, make sure you use the right words so you don't confuse them. Instill in them that the only time they should be touching their gun is when there isn't anyone else down range, and begin to teach them range etiquette and anything else you feel may be necessary to the proper upbringing of your shooting child.
What you don't want to do is just hand your kid a firearm and say, “go have fun.” Kids require instruction—sometimes multiple times for the same topic. Either way, just make sure your kid is safe with a gun, so he never takes his own life with it.
Then, you'll be able to spend many years bonding together. I'm currently going through this process with my own little girl. She is excited to go shooting with me, but knows the dangers of mishandling a firearm. It's always better to err on the side of caution, especially when a novice handles a firearm. What you read above is basically how I'm teaching her, and it works well. She has a lot going for her, however. She can read well, and has an absolute desire to learn all she can.
Disclaimer: This method isn't perfect for everyone or every child. If your kid is extremely immature, it may be a good idea to let him grow up a bit more before you give him a firearm. Only you can tell for sure when your kid is ready to start shooting. If you don't feel that he's ready, don't experiment with his or someone else's life. You're the responsible one, and you make the call.
Sound Off Gun Carriers! How did you teach your kids to shoot? Am I going too far with all that I do? Let me know in the comments below. Then, make sure you sign up for Gun Carrier's FREE Newsletter to make sure you never miss anything we've got going on.
Here's the article about the poor teenager who shot himself.