I recently wrote about becoming a gun owner. Part of my journey included the decision to bring guns into my home and around my kids. This decision was not made lightly. But here is what I did.
Step 0 – Getting Prepared
After the decision was made, I decided to get some training before making any purchases. I took a private class at a local gun range where I learned about the basics – even though my initial exposure to firearms included plenty of instruction from a trusted friend with regards to the rules of gun safety and basic operation. The class re-enforced what my friend had covered, but it was good to get confirmation from another source. Part of that class included the rental of several handguns to see what I may like and help me decide on my first purchase. It also gave me a chance to learn about what other gun related things I needed to purchase up front. (See my beginner’s guide to the first firearm for a deeper discussion).
The was worth every penny and increased my confidence in the decision to purchase a firearm.
Step 2 – The Talk (Setting Boundaries)
The talk happened when we went to the gun store to make our initial purchase. We made it a family event. While at the store, we informed the kids on what we were buying, that it was not a toy, and if they had the opportunity to learn to operate firearms if they wanted to. We left the store with a pistol (a Springfield XD-S in .45 ACP), some ammunition, and a safe.
During the drive home, we covered four steps they should do in the event they encountered a firearm without trusted adult supervision – these are the basics of the Eddie Eagle program which, in my opinion, is a great approach to keeping all kids safe. The four steps are:
- Don’t touch it.
- Leave the area.
- Tell an adult.
They recited the steps all the way home (about 20 minutes). We also continued to recite those steps a few times daily for a couple of weeks and then began to reduce the frequency. To date the kids are asked to recite the steps from time to time, and are required to do so if they want to participate in any activities involving firearms.
Step 3 – Securing the Firearms
From day one, the firearms are secured 100% of the time – either locked in a safe or under adult supervision (at arms length).
Step 4 – Train the Kids
I want my kids to make up their own minds about firearm ownership when leave the nest and I want them to do it from a place of knowledge. Frankly, all the kids ended up wanting to learn to shoot as they noticed me going to range regularly and maintaining the firearms.
We started the process by teaching the kids the four basic gun safety principles:
- Treat every firearm like it is loaded
- Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
- Only place your finger on the trigger when you are ready to shoot
- Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it
Once they were able to recite them on their own, we purchased a youth single shot bolt-action rifle in 22LR (a KSA Cricket) and started taking them to range. Every trip to the range required a recital of the four steps to take when encountering an unsupervised firearm and the four principles of gun safety. That requirement continues today and it applies to everyone in the household.
Additionally, the kids have been invited to attend any training courses my wife or I take assuming they want to participate, are ready for that level of training covered in the course, and can property perform the required recital of steps and principles mentioned above.
One of the kids (my youngest) has developed in interest in participating in local competitions and hunting with me. We are working towards that.