With so much talk about guns and gun control in the media, it's understandable that parents might feel especially overwhelmed. As a gun owner though, I feel like the conversation surrounding guns is both misdirected and misunderstood, and as a parent of two boys, it's important that I at least attempt to clear the air. In other words, there are things no one will tell you about kids and guns, but I will.
I am a mother and I own guns. My kids are fine and safe and, really, there's nothing to see here. I can, however, understand why people are so afraid of guns, and why the cry for gun control has never been louder than it is now. With mass shootings, unnecessary slayings of people of color by police officers, cops being killed execution style, and kids being killed by gun shots because their parents don't take their gun ownership seriously, I get it. I really, really do. Guns are scary and in so many situations, sometimes regardless of who is holding them. In fact, although I consider myself pro gun, I support sensible gun control, and I think that every reasonable parent should.
That said, I am living proof that kids and guns can coexist peacefully, responsibly and most importantly, safely. There is such a thing as healthy fear when it comes to guns, and the more parents know about it, the better off their kids will be. So, in the spirit of starting a productive conversation about kids and guns, here are seven things that no one will tell you about them, but I will.
Personally, I consider things that I can't control to be worthy of my fear. Tornadoes, terrorist attacks, and what happens to my body after I've had far too many cups of coffee, for example. My own guns are things that I can control though, and other responsible gun owners would likely say the same. I can control if and when they're shot. I can control where and how they're stored, and I can control how and when my kids will learn about them. Gun safety is the most important aspect of gun ownership, and it's the first thing our children need to learn about guns.
Kids don't have to fear guns. No one does. When educated on the proper use and safety of guns (at an appropriate age, of course), guns are actually...wait for it...safe. Yes, I said it. Guns are safe when used properly and responsibly. Just like Legos are safe when used properly and responsibly. I grew up around them, as did many of my friends, and not a single one of us has had a single incident. However, there are some of us who taken advantage of the presence of a gun when we were in danger, and that presence alone is what kept us safe.
They don't have to fear guns, but they do have to respect them. There's a big difference. Respecting guns means understanding the power that they yield, and the possible consequences of when they're improperly used. Those consequences could be deadly, and as hard as it may be to teach our children about the potential dangers of guns in the wrong hands or guns that are improperly handled, it's a parent's responsibility to do so. They don't have to be afraid of guns, but they do need to respect and understand their power.
While guns themselves don't have to be feared, guns in the wrong hands and/or guns that are improperly used or stored definitely merit fear. When my kids reach an appropriate age, I'll teach them about guns and gun safety just like my dad taught me.
I'll never forget my father taking me down to the creek behind our house and teaching me about three different kinds of guns and how to use them. Safety was, of course, the first lesson.
It's because of those lessons that my partner and I allow a gun to be in our house. We understand how to safely use them, though we've thankfully never had to. Teaching children about guns, how to use or store them, and that they should respect, rather than fear them, is so incredibly important for any gun owner.
I remember staying at a friend's house when I was maybe 11. Her mom had a pistol, and this girl had never been taught anything about it. She got the pistol out and started waving it around like she had seen someone on TV do. This is an appropriate time to be afraid of a gun; when it's in the hands of a kid who thinks holding it makes her look cool. I knew better, and knew that it didn't make her look cool, but rather incredibly ignorant, so I carefully took it away from her and removed the bullets before I put it away. Had I not known how to handle a gun properly, and how a gun should be treated, she might have accidentally shot herself or me and that is truly terrifying. Teaching kids about guns could actually save a life, and in my own case, it probably did.
One of the most important things about owning a gun when you're a parent is knowing how to properly store them. It's never acceptable to leave a gun loaded when children are present, no matter where you're storing it. Also, storing a gun somewhere out of a child's reach should be common sense, but unfortunately, some parents have neglected to do so, and they've paid a tragic price because of it.
My dad taught me that I should always consider a gun loaded. Always. No exceptions. All parents should teach their children this, because even if you yourself have your guns safely stored and unloaded, other parents who might have your kids are their house might not follow the same set of rules. In that event, a child should treat the gun like it's loaded and find an adult.
Every parent needs to teach their kids about guns, whether they own them or not.
A gun can always pose a threat, and a gun's presence should never be taken lightly. An unloaded gun should be treated with the same caution as a loaded one in the presence of a child (or anyone else), and no one should never become so comfortable in a gun's presence that they become nonchalant about it. When people stop taking the presence of a gun seriously, people get hurt. You should never treat a gun like it's no big deal. As soon as you do, both you and the gun become dangerous.
My kids aren't old enough for me to feel comfortable introducing them to guns. And I mean any guns, even toy guns. The thing about toy guns is that they teach children that guns are for fun. Guns aren't for fun. They're for protection, or to put food on a family's table, but not for fun. A kid's unloaded finger could eventually become a very real, very loaded gun and if/when that happens, they need to understand the very real difference between playing cops and robbers with a toy gun, and doing anything with a real one.
We have a gun in our house for the sake of safety. Though I hope that I never have to, I can pull a trigger faster than I can dial 911, and in the event that my family needs a gun's protection, I know how to use a gun to protect them. That said, our gun is out of reach from our children. It's not loaded. It's an old shot gun with a shell taped to the barrel. If we ever have to use it, we're prepared and equipped to do so. My hope is that we won't have to, but just knowing that it's there helps me to sleep better at night.
I agree that sensible gun regulations are necessary, but I also don't buy into the political propaganda that tells me that guns are the reason for murder or crime or terrorism. People are responsible for pulling triggers. People are the scary ones in this scenario. As someone who has lived in the presence of a gun, I can attest to their benefits. My dad put food on our table with his gun. He kept our family safe and protected with his gun. Guns have been such a minimal part of my life, yet I consider them incredibly important. If I had to depend on our government to keep my family safe, that would be terrifying, and it's for that very reason that there's a gun in our house and it's why, eventually, my kids are going to understand how to safely and properly use it, too.
I don't understand why a civilian would need a sniper rifle, and I agree that our laws are lacking, but having grown up around them, I understand the benefit of guns. That's how our military protects our country. That's how some families put food on their table. That's how families like mine ensure their safety.