How to talk to your children about firearm safety.
Updated: Nov 7
From the perspective of a Mother, Wife, Firearms Instructor, Former Police Officer & SWAT Team Member.
Parents, it is our responsibility to adequately inform & prepare our children with knowledge & understanding of safety practices regarding firearms. As a former Police Officer, currently married to a Police Officer, my children will inevitably be exposed to firearms. Speaking to our children about firearm safety is something we can instinctively weave into our lives. This topic is imperative to teach your children, even for families who do not own a firearm! Why do you ask?
In 2021, The National Firearms Survey found that the overall rate of adult firearms ownership in the United States is 31.9%. This suggests that in excess of 81.4 million Americans aged 18 & over, own a firearm. The average gun owner has 5 firearms & handguns are the most common firearms owned. Demographically, gun owners are diverse. 42.2% are female and 57.8% are male.
Whether you have a firearm in your home or not, it is highly likely that your kids may find themselves in a situation involving a firearm. There is no way to predict or know when or where this may occur, but they need to be prepared regardless!
training begins with a conversation
Unfortunately, in the years that I was a Police Officer, I have seen too many incidents where a child found a gun & ultimately hurt themselves or someone else. My goal with this resource is to give you some guidelines on how to approach this subject with your children. Always begin training with a conversation.
You know your children best & you should determine the best way to communicate with them based on their level of understanding. Make adjustments where appropriate for their progression. I can't give you an exact step-by-step guide because each child is different. Trust your mama gut & move the conversation as you feel best.
For example: What is a gun? What does it do? Who has a gun? Why do they have it? What do you do if you find one? What do you do if your friend shows you one? What if someone brings a gun to school? What should you do if you hear a gunshot? What is the difference between guns in video games or movies and real life? And so on.
We want to avoid simply telling our children to "stay away from the safe/closet/etc" without thoroughly explaining to them the dangers & seriousness of firearms. Children are naturally curious beings & may investigate for themselves since they were told not to do it.
You cannot always control what your children are exposed to, but you can influence the way they perceive it.
Here are some facts about firearms that kids should understand.
Guns are not toys, they are tools.
Guns are weapons & dangerous. They can kill, seriously injure, & destroy anything they are pointed at.
Guns can be used for good & evil.
TV Shows/Movies/Video Games are NOT real life, you cannot take back your actions in real life. Once the bullet leaves the gun, you cannot get it back. There are no second chances.
gun safety rules
Here are gun safety rules for you & your kids!
Always store/lock guns when you are not using them so an unauthorized person does not have access to it.
Stress to your children that guns are never to be played with. The only time they are to touch a firearm is when they are under your supervision in a safe location.
Five rules when you are training:
Wear eye & ear protection.
Treat all weapons as loaded.
Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Never aim it at anyone or anything that you are not willing to destroy.
Know your target & what is beyond it.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Stop, Don't Touch, Run Away, Go Find A Grown Up
The NRA's Eddie Eagle teaches the basic Stop, Don't Touch, Run Away, & Find a Grown-Up approach. I like to use their approach, but also build on it.
STOP. We want them to stop & take a moment to think - What is my next step? If they panic, their ability to process information or retrieve previously learned information is debilitated.
DON'T TOUCH. They should not touch the firearm. If they are with someone they should also tell them - do not touch. A firearm that is not in anyone's hands is not a threat because it cannot fire.
RUN AWAY. If a person does begin to touch the gun, they need to run away & find help as fast as they can! A moving target is a lot harder to hit than someone standing frozen in front of it. By leaving the area of the firearm, we are also removing any possible temptation & focusing our children's minds on the next step instead of staying & considering alternative options.
FIND A GROWN UP. They need to find someone whom they can trust to take the next appropriate step. Some examples are a Guardian, Teacher, Police Officer, Security Guard, or a Mom with a child.
These conversations & training approaches need to be paired with constant repetition. Repetition is key for you & your child to quickly recall what needs to be done in a high-stress, dangerous situation. If they have practiced it before, they will be far more efficient in their response speed & action.
I know teaching your children this topic can be difficult, but I hope this article provides you with the knowledge, confidence, & encouragement to get the conversation started. If you are wanting a little more guidance you can click the link below to download our free guide that I have carefully curated with The Resilient Mamas to make this conversation easier for you. In case no one has told you today, you are capable of hard things!