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This may be hard for some of you to read. For some it may be impossible. Some may not be bothered at all. Inevitably I am going to reach people in the world who have had positive or negative experiences with firearms. I’m not trying to sway opinions here, but I just want to state one simple fact: My kids have access to guns.
What In The World?
It’s not what you might think. I’m not saying that all of my guns are lying in the open or in random drawers waiting for little hands to stumble upon their triggers.
My children have access to guns, but that access is not open. Fundamentally, giving children open access to anything is not a very good idea, but giving open access to guns is just poor thinking any way you slice it. My children have access to guns, but in my home, I alone control that access. It will be that way until they have proven themselves responsible enough to handle a firearm on their own.
Access To Guns And The Responsibility It Entails
I gained access to my first gun at the age of 5. It was exhilarating. My father took us with him to the firing range to sight in his rifles a week before the opening day of hunting season. My brother and I took immediate interest in these devices that spouted fire and thunder. We wanted to try.
That day was my first day in a life long practice of firearm responsibility.
At the age of 6, my son fired a gun for the first time. Like my father before me, we were at the range practicing with some friends and his interest piqued. We decided to let him shoot.
He loved it.
Kids are not naturally biased. They don’t fear things in the sense that an adult might. My son was oblivious to the stigma of firearms and the ongoing debates that fill news headlines in America. He had no reason to believe that these devices could cause him harm if not handled respectfully.
I sought to change his ignorance. Like my father before me.
Guns are dangerous. I will not deny that point to anybody. Guns can kill you, or your children, wife, mother, father, neighbor, dog, etc. Anything that a gun barrel is pointed at can and will die if the trigger is pulled. That is what the gun is designed to do. I do not argue this point. Guns are capable of killing.
We were at the range practicing with some friends and his interest piqued. We decided to let him shoot.
This is what we teach our children. This is why we have to teach them responsibility. This is why my children have access to guns. I cannot allow them to be ignorant. As a gun owner and a father, it is impossible to allow them to be ignorant.
There are rules of responsibility when it comes to handling a firearm. I learned many as a kid, but as an adult who has taken several safety courses over the years, these NRA Gun Safety Rules compress everything into 3 easy to remember points:
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Accidental discharge and injury happens because one of the above rules is broken. If all 3 rules are followed, gun accidents don’t happen. Period.
Whenever my son and I are handling firearms, these 3 rules are followed, no exceptions. If there is procedural error and a rule is broken, we are done handling guns for the moment and we debrief the mistake. There is no room for error here. We must get it right all of the time; not some of the time.
What If They Find A Gun Somewhere Else?
I fully expect that one day my children will find themselves presented with open access to guns without adult supervision. A true test of lessons learned will decide my success or failure in promoting firearm responsibility in my children.
Until that day comes (and until well after it) I will repeat these 4 rules:
- Don’t touch.
- Run away.
- Tell a grown up.
These are the same rules my father taught me and until I was old enough to check and clear a weapon safely on my own, these rules took precedent in every interaction with a firearm.
My children are raised with these same rules in mind. Safety and responsibility is paramount.
You can limit the exposure or you can try to avoid it all together, but American gun culture is so pervasive that a day will come when your children may have access to guns. In a perfect world we could avoid that if we wanted to, but this is not a perfect world.
The next best thing then is to educate our kids to be responsible if they find themselves in a situation where they are presented with a firearm. My children have access to guns for the sake of teaching them how to co-exist safely and responsibly. Exposure takes the curiosity away and the lessons condition the behavior. We live with our guns and the days go by, and we all know the expectation: Be safe. Be responsible.
We must get it right all of the time
Josh Spicer is an E-Learning developer, blogger, and father of 3 who loves spending time with his family and helping to guide his little ones on their journey through life.