Ask Writing Huntress: On gun safety and firearms in the home
Dear Writing Huntress,
I’ve recently gotten engaged to a wonderful man who hunts. He has introduced me to hunting and has been an extremely patient teacher, so I don’t have any questions about hunting just yet. However, I am wondering about guns. I have a 5-year-old child from my previous marriage and he has a daughter. She is used to being around guns, but neither my son nor I have ever had a gun in our house. What do I teach him? What if we have guests over? How should we store the firearms?
Intimidated in Idaho
Much like you, purchasing my first gun intimidated me. Handling it scared me, an affliction due to the fact I had not been raised around guns. It took a few years, but now, I feel more comfortable with my Benelli Vinci than I do a tube of lipstick or kitchen knife, which brings me to my first and most important bit of advice: allow yourself and your son time to acclimate to having firearms in your new home.
In addition to time, be sure to arm yourself, as well as your offspring, with as much knowledge as possible. One of my best huntress friends, Dani, has a 3-year old son named Lane, who is known to stalk bears around hay bales in their North Dakota yard. However, he’s best known for his trusty 2-pound, wooden toy gun he totes pretty much everywhere. I noticed he has never pointed it at anyone and said BANG! He settles it safely on the ground whenever he needs to collect a fresh imaginary kill and he flat out refuses to pick up or even touch his father’s gun. I asked Dani how she taught him to be so comfortable around guns. She, a woman raised her entire life around firearms, said raising kids from a young age to respect, understand and be comfortable around firearms is the best way to begin a lifetime of firearm safety.
Firearm education should start with the NRA’s golden rules:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. When holding a gun, rest your finger along the side of the gun, above the trigger area – called the action. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction and your finger off the trigger. If the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s), which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun(s) alone and get help from someone who does.
Once the foundation has been laid, here are a few pointers I’ve picked up in the years I’ve been handling firearms that may help you on your journey:
- Keep guns safely stowed. Guns are generally best kept in a gun safe with a combination only the adults in the household know. Ammo always should be stored separately from the firearms. If a safe is out of your price range, a gun cabinet with a lock works well, as do individual trigger locks.
- Start off small. The first time I shot a 12-gauge shotgun, my husband loaded it with 3-½-inch magnum turkey loads. While it almost knocked me over, it prepared me for really tough recoil. While this worked for me, it won’t with kids. If something kicks to hard, makes too much of a noise or knocks them backwards, generally they won’t want to shoot anymore. Take baby steps at the range to keep your child engaged and learning. So, start with a small caliber, like a .22.
- Teach friends, too. If your friends visit your new abode and are nervous around firearms, take the time to educate them just as you would your son. However, if a friend has a serious issue or past negative experience with firearms, it may be best to keep your firearms stored away and keep the visit gun-free.
- Embrace extra learning opportunities. When I was a kid, I learned best from people who weren’t my parents. That being said, attending a hunter or shooter’s safety class may be another way to expand your child’s firearm education. The NRA’s Eddie Eagle program is a good way for children to learn the basics of firearm safety. Project Child Safe is another great resource aimed to educate gun respect.
Learning about respecting and using firearms can be intimidating, but with the right attitude and guidance, it can be an enjoyable journey. The basis you’ll be forming now with your son will ensure this proud, time-honored tradition continues on for another generation.
Happy Hunting (and shooting!),