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Gun Safety: How to Keep Your Child Safe from Firearms

March 24, 2014
Original Author: Keren Perles

The fact is, children’s brains have not developed to the point that they realize the consequences of their actions.

Ken McGreevy

Firearms Instructor

San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, DHS

So you’ve told your child not to play with toy guns, and he’s running around pretending to shoot his little brother with a banana. In today’s world, gun play is difficult to control, especially if your child is exposed to violent images in the media, says Cathie Whittenburg, communications head of the organization States United to Prevent Gun Violence. “According to the National Institute of Media and the Family, the average American child will see over 200,000 violent acts on TV by the time they graduate from high school,” says Whittenburg.

But what can you do if you or someone you know owns a gun? And how can you keep your child safe from being harmed by a gun outside of your own home? The answer is twofold – the first of which involves educating your child effectively about gun safety.

1. Teach your child about the basics of gun safety for kids. Your first defense against gun injury is making sure that your child knows what to do when she encounters a gun – even if it looks like a toy. Make sure she knows to never touch a gun, to leave the area, and to tell an adult right away.

2. Remind your child about this information often. Give different examples, such as “What would you do if your friend wanted to show you something, and it was a gun?” or “What would you do if you saw a gun lying on the sidewalk?” At the same time, recognize that even children who know the “rules” backwards and forwards may not actually follow them. “The fact is, children’s brains have not developed to the point that they realize the consequences of their actions,” explains Ken McGreevy, Firearms Instructor for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and for The Department of Homeland Security, and owner of the firearms training school Inland Training. “It’s not their fault, and it doesn’t mean they’re stupid; it’s simply the way that brains develop.”

3. Hit the shooting range. If older children are interested in learning how to use a gun, McGreevy sees nothing wrong with taking them to a shooting range and teaching them. But always make sure to teach them safe gun-handling rules, and emphasize the fact that guns are only used when adults are around. The same way that your child knows not to swim unless there’s an adult around, he should know not to handle a gun without a supervising adult.

Things for Parents to Consider: 

Before you send your child over to a friend’s house or a neighbor’s house, ask the parents questions about gun use. “Sadly, parents take a lot for granted when their kids go over to their friend’s houses,” says McGreevy. “Just like you would ask if they have a pool, and what are the rules regarding unsupervised swimming, it shouldn’t be taken for granted that any firearms in the house are secured. You wouldn’t let your kids go over there if you saw a crack pipe on the kitchen counter, would you? Having grandpa’s scatter gun hanging on the wall over the fireplace is a cause for concern, too.”

Make sure that relatives without children lock up their guns when your children visit. “There are a lot of people that think to themselves that they don’t have kids, so they don’t have to worry about it, but they haven’t gone the extra step and thought about grandkids, friend’s kids, neighbor’s kids, or crooks,” says McGreevy. “There are all manner of people that can be in your house. You can’t leave hand grenades lying around.”

Talk to your child about guns.  Share your values with them.  Let them know how you feel about the use of guns, the use of violence to solve problems, and the value of human life.  Keep the conversations open and honest, and listen to what they have to say.