According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, approximately 35.7% of Texans are gun owners. Keeping children safe from gun violence starts at home with the right education and awareness. Creating a conversation about guns and gun safety with your children will help them develop a proper understanding of firearms. The dialogue should be simple and consist of general gun safety, a plan if an unattended gun is found, and how to keep guns safely secured at home.
Children should know the difference between a real gun, fake gun, and guns seen in movies or video games. Let them know real guns cause real damage and fake guns portrayed as real guns can also be detrimental. Children are curious by nature and the mystery surrounding guns should be eliminated by teaching them how to respect them. A good way to do so is to provide them with a few general safety rules on how to properly handle a gun.
Because gun safety is such an important aspect of gun ownership, caregivers should be very conscientious in the decision to allow children to handle guns.
Children should only be allowed to handle a gun with supervision from an approved, responsible adult in an appropriate environment, like a shooting range. When handling a gun, children should be taught to never point it at anyone, always assume a gun is loaded, keep their finger off the trigger until they are ready to discharge it, and if equipped with a safety, always keep the weapon on safe until they are ready to use it.
If your child finds an unattended gun inside or outside a home, the following four steps are a simple way to handle the situation.
- First, children should stop what they are doing. This allows them to gather their thoughts and think about their next step.
- Children should be told to NOT TOUCH the gun. A gun untouched does not disrupt.
- Children should step away from the gun. This does two things; it physically creates distance from the gun and it psychologically removes the temptation your child may have to touch the gun.
- Lastly, your child should tell a responsible adult.
Some simple tips to follow to safely and properly store a gun in your home should include the following:
- Keep your gun locked in a gun safe or lock box.
- Make sure the guns are stored in a location not accessible to children or any other person not allowed to handle a gun.
- Ammunition should securely be stored separate from the gun and in a location not accessible to children.
- Never leave an unattended loaded gun in an area accessible to children.
There are a number of ways to properly store and handle a gun and each family should tailor their plan to fit their needs. It is the responsibility of parents or caregivers to start a dialogue with children about gun safety and reinforce it by repeating the message with them.
About the Author
Peter Soltero is a Detective with the Grapevine Police Department Crimes Against Children Unit. He has ten years of experience as a Police Officer and has been working crimes against children cases for five years. In addition to his regular duties, he is a member of the Mid-Cities Regional Peer Support Team, Grapevine Peer Support Critical Incident Stress Management Team, Child Abduction Response Team, and Grapevine Honor Guard. Prior to joining the Grapevine Police Department, Peter served eight years in the United States Marine Corps. During his free time, he enjoys spending time with his three daughters and is an avid reader.