The official first day of summer is right around the corner, June 21. Schools across the country are wrapping up, about to release your kids, which means a few months of fun and free time! How will they spend it? If they’re like my kids, they’ll want to go to the pool or to a friend’s house every waking hour. Most likely you’ve taught your kids how to swim and to be careful around the pool, but have you talked to them about another potential danger they might encounter — guns?
Any responsible gun owner has hopefully talked with her kids about guns and the safety rules associated with them. However, have you talked to them about what they should do if they see a gun at a friend’s house? Having a discussion with your children now will give them the knowledge and skills to know what to do if the situation arises. If they don’t learn from you, they’ll learn from someone else. Even if you don’t have guns at home, the conversation is still important.
Bill Brassard, director of Project ChildSafe, a gun-safety education program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says to keep these tips in mind:
In your home, the responsibility falls on you to provide a safe environment for your children and their friends. Make sure that all firearms are stored securely in a locked container or safe and are not easy to access. Children, especially toddlers, are especially curious and tenacious. Don’t underestimate their ability to defeat simple “child locks.” Simply hiding a gun or placing it in a location that’s out of the child’s reach is not enough. I remember snooping through my house at Christmas time, searching for hidden presents (and finding a few), which my parents surely thought were hidden well.
Also, keep ammunition in a location separate from firearms, securely locked up. The second part of being a responsible gun owner is educating your kids. Talk openly about firearms: how they work, safety issues, and the real dangers associated with careless handling. The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program is a fantastic gun safety course for children ages Pre-K through 3rd grade. This course is offered through the National Rifle Association and includes an instructor guide, activity books, poster, and an animated video to explain its four-step safety message. The 4 steps if you see a gun are:
For more information about the program, visit www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie.
The 4-step method outlined in the Eddie Eagle program is especially important for your children to understand when they’re away from home. Safety doesn’t end there. Kids can also come in contact with firearms at their friend’s home, a neighbor’s, or anywhere else they might spend time. Will they know what to do?
The NSSF also developed and sponsors the Project ChildSafe firearm safety education program. Having a discussion about firearm safety with the parents of your child’s friends might be a little intimidating or awkward, but it’s up to you to keep your kids safe. One suggestion is to make it a part of your regular conversation, saying something like, “Johnny is very curious and likes to explore. Do you have guns in your home, and if so, how are they stored?” That person will likely understand that you only have your child’s safety in mind and not be offended. If you don’t feel comfortable with the answer given, choose another option for your child. You can always offer to host the play-date at your house instead.
You can get more information on Project Childsafe and view the NSSF video, “How to Talk to Your Kids about Firearm Safety” here: http://www.projectchildsafe.org
Just as you teach your kids the importance of putting on sunscreen to prevent sunburns, or take them to swimming lessons to prevent drowning, teaching children about gun safety should be just as important. How about taking them to the range while you’re at it? Teach them how to safely handle firearms, not just tell them. Summer should be an exciting and fun time for you and your kids, so be proactive about their well being.