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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guns and Minors

This is a reprint of our latest weekly Personal Safety Newsletter.  If you'd like to get on our weekly list, click here and sign up.  At the same time, you can register for our upcoming Emergency Preparedness Newsletter list.  We're estimating that will start coming out in 2 weeks or so.

Our next Personal Safety issue will be our 50th - with the subject being "Flinch Control". Who wouldn't want to control their flinching, huh?  You can read our past issues by clicking here.
Guns and Minors

Last weekend I was teaching our FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation class, and one of the employees of the range came up to me with a question. He said that there was a person in the lobby that wanted to know if I taught minors about gun safety, and if there was an age limit for my classes. This mother had an 11 year old she wanted to take the class.

I told him that I did indeed provide firearms safety training to minors. I told him that so far, my youngest firearms student was 13 years old.

I explained that I had three rules for teaching minors: (1) The child's parent or legal guardian had to attend the same class, (2) The child had to be tall enough to be able to shoot over the shooting bench at the range without assistance, and (3) The child had to have the emotional maturity to be able to sit through the classroom portion of the class and to understand before the class that guns can be dangerous or deadly if misused.

I explain to the parent that I have a very low threshold when it comes to removing a child (along with their chaperoning parent) from the class. It is the parent's responsibility to know their child.

So far this year, I've taught nearly a dozen minors, and not a single one has been removed from a class. These parents know their kids very well.

Much of America - and certainly most of California - has an aversion to teaching minors about guns and gun safety. The belief is that by giving them such information, it will somehow make them more prone to using a gun. I ask these people if their beliefs on drug and alcohol education follow the same logic - that by teaching them about these things means they will more likely abuse them.

I generally get a steely stare... and no response!

When we hear the very infrequent reports of a child accidentally being injured or killed by a handgun, the first reaction is to call for a restriction on guns. Legislators write another law, but nothing changes - at least with regards to children being made more safe around guns.

You see, you can write all the laws you want about gun locks and keeping guns unloaded around children, but if the adult in the home disregards the law - intentionally or not - the child can still end up hurt.

Laws are reactive. Parents need to be proactive. At a very early age - as soon as your child has the emotional maturity - you should teach them about gun safety. You may never allow a gun to be present in your own home, but the homes your children visit may not have similar restrictions.

The NRA has a wonderful program called Eddie Eagle. It is focused on kids between pre-K and grade 3. The entire intent is to teach kids to stay away from guns. STOP! Don't Touch. Leave The Area. Tell An Adult.

From the Eddie Eagle site -
Eddie Eagle is never shown touching a firearm, and he does not promote firearm ownership or use. The program prohibits the use of Eddie Eagle mascots anywhere that guns are present. The Eddie Eagle Program has no agenda other than accident prevention -- ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun. The program never mentions the NRA. Nor does it encourage children to buy guns or to become NRA members.
Most children in this age group simply don't have the ability to render a gun safe - so it makes sense to teach them to get out of harm's way. They DO have the emotional maturity to understand that concept.

You as a parent (or grandparent) have the obligation to be proactive in a child's education - not some legislator or state agency. You may only feel comfortable with Eddie Eagle-style education. That's fine.

You may feel that, once they are a little bit older - and more emotionally mature - they should learn more in-depth usage, safety and storage techniques. That's fine as well.

Keep in mind, though, you need to assume that at some point, they will come in contact with a handgun or rifle. How they react in that situation is wholly dependent upon the education - or lack thereof - they've received.

Next Issue: Flinch Control

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Andrea said...

Interesting post, Chief.

This subject has been coming up recently here at home as both of my children are interested in guns. They both have a good, healthy respect/fear of guns but they're still interested. In fact, my 4 y.o. daughter is convinced she's going hunting this fall. We'll check into that Eddie Eagle and see what that's like. THanks for the link!

Andrea said...

Let me rephrase that. Both of my kids are interested in hunting, not in the guns themselves. They both want to go deer hunting this fall and are only slightly deterred by the noise that Daddy's guns make.

GunRights4US said...

Compare the “ignorance is best” approach to guns as currently practiced throughout modern liberal-dom, with their approach to sex education! Remember when Clintoon’s Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders’ wanted masturbation techniques taught to kindergardeners?

Speaking of mouth-breathing stupid asses, here’s a memorable quote from Elders regarding guns:

“What we need are safer guns, and safer bullets”

[virtual hand slap to forehead while allowing jaw to hang open in abject amazement at the stupidity of that statement]

As relating guns to children, I have made it a practice with my kids to introduce them to guns at the earliest possible age. After all, I was squirrel hunting unsupervised with a .22 by the time I was eight years old. What would you expect of someone like me?

I made it a two-prong approach. While I hammered home the concept of safety at every opportunity, I also worked hard to remove every trace of novelty from guns. From the time my kids were walking, I had guns conspicuously positioned all thru the house. Those “training aides” were unloaded of course, and it had the effect of making guns no more interesting to my boys than a dust bin or a magazine stand.

Chief Instructor said...

Andrea, I can say that the safest adults I know had an introduction to guns as children.

The youngest kid I've personally seen safely shoot a gun by himself was 8 years old. I think his dad started him at the shooting range around 7 years old. Again, it all comes down to the emotional maturity of the child.

Eddie Eagle, or something like it, should be started as soon as possible. Have them recognize the need to get out of the area if mom, dad or some other trusted adult is not present.

Guns, "safer bullets" - talk about Unclear On The Concept!

When I was a kid, it was similar in our household. My dad was a cop and he'd unholster his gun each day he got home right in front of us. We'd get to hold the unloaded gun whenever we asked.

It was the same thing you mentioned - take the mystery out of it. We'd then run out and play ball or ride bikes or whatever. It was no big deal.

Anonymous said...

I think my hunter safety class was in the 7th grade and was given to every boy in class (yeah, back then that's how they did it). Almost all of us grew up around guns so it wasn't new material. But that's rural Nebraska.

Chief Instructor said...

Here in CA, we didn't get hunter safety back then, but we actually did have archery. They'd probably get arrested nowadays for providing minors with weapons.