When it comes to the debate on gun control, we often hear from two opposing sides. One one side there are people who recognize the danger of increasing the number of guns sold, and have no desire to add to it. On the other side, you have folks who swear any form of gun control is an attack on the second amendment, and who flock to gun stores whenever a tragedy occurs. But how often do we hear about what gun-owning moms are doing to prevent gun tragedies? Like any other complex situation in the world, there is no "black and white" way of looking at gun control and gun violence prevention.
As a mother, as someone who came of age in the era of Columbine, and as someone who does not own a gun herself (and has no desire to), it’s extremely difficult for me to ask people who own guns what they’re doing to prevent gun tragedies. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — in which 17 students and teachers lost their lives, and another 14 were injured — is still fresh on our minds and in our hearts. Sometimes it feels like nothing can prevent this kind of atrocity from occurring, but we all know that's not the case. In fact, in other parts of the world countries have been able to enact laws that have curbed senseless gun violence and mass losses of life. There is something we, as a nation, can do.
Personally, I’m of the mindset that we definitely need stronger controls over gun ownership, including universal background checks, strict punishments for anyone whose gun somehow makes it into the hands of a child, and a ban on all assault weapons. I’m shook enough that I know I need to put more time and effort into fighting for better gun control, and fighting to dismantle a culture that loves, and is arguably obsessed, with guns.
But I know not everyone thinks like I do, or considers the aforementioned to be a solution. So I asked a group of gun-owning moms what they were doing to prevent tragedies. It was startling that no one brought up working with groups like Everytown For Gun Safety to lobby for better gun control. I was surprised that no one talked about reducing their children’s exposure to violent entertainment (especially the kind that romanticizes gun violence). Not a single person talked about electing leaders who believe in gun control legislation. None brought up pushing for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be allowed to study gun violence. No one brought up bully culture, and how this often contributes to certain students committing atrocities against their fellow classmates. No one mentioned mental health.
Instead, the answers were all more or less the same. I urge parents who own guns to take a cue from the following parents, though. They lock and store their firearms, and teach gun safety consistently. In the end, the fight again gun-related violence is a fight we must all be part of.
“Lock them in a safe and teach gun safety to the kiddos. The 8-year-old knows more about guns than I do; his dad is amazing. Our daughters will learn as soon as they’re walking/talking.”
“My husband is a police officer. While I would prefer otherwise, there are guns in my home. We installed a combination lock on a closet to lock up all guns while they are in the home and not on his belt at work or in his patrol car. [Our daughter] will be taught gun safety by my husband. Right now, she knows they are not toys and can be dangerous.”
“We have several guns in our home. We have taught each of our children about guns and our safety rules with them. We keep them locked up in our gun safe. We keep them unloaded and safety on in the safe as well. The key to the safe is in a special secret place that my husband and I only know about.”
“They're locked in the safe, but the kids have gone with us to the range and seen us shoot them, and have watched us take them apart and clean them. They know that guns are tools for adults to use and that they are not to touch them.”
“Our rifle is locked in its case and the handgun is in the top drawer of our dresser for quick access. Our daughter is only 17 months, but when she is older we will teach her.”
“We teach our boys gun safety and take our oldest to the gun range so he gets that hands-on knowledge and what to look for to make sure a gun has its safety on and is not loaded. We do not put on [sic] fingers on the trigger until these steps have been done and when you ready to shoot at your target! We teach them they do not touch guns unless a grown up is around, and that the proper safety precautions have deemed the gun safe to handle. We teach them that if another kid is playing with a gun, you run as fast as you can and get an adult. We keep our guns locked up and they are taught not to go near the safe.”
“Locked in a safe up high. And when they’re older we’ll take them to the range and teach them in depth gun safety. For now we teach them with toy guns (realistic BB guns) that we don’t point at people or pull the trigger.”
“We have a large safe for our rifles and shotguns. I also do conceal and carry, so I keep that gun, when not in my purse, locked in a small safe next to my bed that only my fingerprints and my fiancé's will open it. Our daughter is 2, but knows they are not toys and she is not to touch them, but we keep them locked up.”
“Locked in safe. Locked in box up high in closet. Will teach her safety.”
“The rifles locked in a case, [and the] handguns [are] upstairs in a gun safe. We teach our girls about gun safety and, when they’re older, they will take safety classes.”
“We have five kids: two boys, two girls, and one infant. Our boys have taking [sic] a hunter safety class and all of them have gone to range with us. They all have and are still learning gun safety and handling skills. Lil' guy will learn as he is growing also, plus our lil' guy on way.”
“My 4-year-old knows the correct way to hold a rifle, thanks to his deer hunter toy shotgun. Of course he’s 4, so he has a lot to learn. We will get him a gun when he’s 7 or 8, but he must know the weapons safety rules before he touches it. We have a gun safe and keep the key with us. Our 1-year-old doesn’t care currently. I think education is extremely important before and during the handling of a weapon.”
“Education, safety, respect for life. My son is 3 and has already shot a gun with our help. He now knows real guns are scary and has a healthy respect for the difference.”
“Most of our handguns are unloaded and in their cases in the top of a closet. The one that we keep loaded is holstered and in a drawer that is too deep and heavy for [our] daughter to open. She’s only 15 months. When she can get to that point, we will have a gun safe to put it in. Haven’t decided on what kind we want, or we’d have it in one now.
She has already been shooting with us, and knows that our guns make very loud noises (even with her ear protection), so she wasn’t too eager to look at them, or touch them, anyway.
The one time we had children who were not ours in the house, they stayed mostly outside and never went into the room that our loaded gun was in. There was [sic] also about 20 adults that they would have had to escape the eye of to get access to it.
We will continue to teach her gun safety as she gets older, and when we get our concealed carry, I’m sure our storage and methods will change. What works now will definitely not work as she gets older, and we are aware of that!”
“Gun is up high [and] locked away. My son is 4 and when he is able to, I will be taking him to safety classes as well as just teaching him the rights and wrongs.”
“We keep trigger locks on any gun in the house and keep them stored up high, and ammo is stored in a locked box up high and on a different level of the house. We take our kids when we go target practicing and talk about who handles guns, what gets fired at and why, and make sure they understand it’s a great tool for specific things when you are old enough. We use ours for hunting only.”
“We have a single handgun for protection in the house because my husband goes out of town for work often. My daughter knows we have a gun, [and she] has seen it. We have educated her to be respectful and fearful of a gun and that guns are for protection and hunting deer and that only adults are allowed to use them. She knows not to touch and we keep it locked in our safe by mine and my husbands bed.”