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When You Should Teach Children Firearm Safety

Mia Anstine

youth turkey hunters

Many of us own guns and for a variety of reasons. I like to collect them. My aunt has hers for protection. Then, my friend Josie competes with hers. Lanny competes and hunts with them. Regardless of the reason for owning a firearm, there are things to consider before we introduce our children to them.

My daughter partakes in shotgun sports. Her team, Los Gatos Negros, took first place in their fall league series at the trap range. Of the five-member team, she’s the youngest and the only girl. It’s inspiring to see the team captain, Jimmy, a man who’s not yet of retirement age, put together a team where he can mentor and encourage youngsters to take up shooting.

The other three members of the team include a gentleman near Jimmy’s age, a man who’s probably a youngster, like me, and then another boy who’s a year or two older than my daughter. There’s a whole gamut of generations out there, and they all come together to shoot guns.

At a recent book club meeting, a couple of parents asked, “What age should my children be when I teach them to shoot?”

In my experience as a parent and as a shooting instructor, I teach children safety and then how to shoot. Safety is taught the minute they get their first toy gun or when they see mine.

Before a parent decides to teach their youngster about firearms, they should ask themselves several questions.

Click to download – Parent’s Q&A Checklist for Teaching Children About Firearms  

At what age did you learn to shoot? I learned to shoot at five-years-old. Is this an appropriate age? You know your children’s capabilities and maturity better than anyone else. Do you think they’re old enough to begin handling a firearm?

I learned to shoot at the age of five because my dad was preparing to teach my older brother how to hunt. Was I of age to go hunting? According to the law in our state, I wasn’t old enough to hunt. However, the shooting lesson wasn’t about tagging animals; it was about safety. 

My father wanted to make sure his family was safe. He knew I’d see my brother with a gun, and he had to eliminate my lack of knowledge to get a jump on any curiosity I might garner.

child with binoculars

How mature is your child?

Is your child attentive?

Does your child follow the rules?

Does your child show signs of respect?

When you're deciding what your child should learn about firearms, consider these questions, but that's not all.

You have guns in the house. Are they locked up? If you need trigger locks or other means of safely storing your firearms, you can look to NSSF’s Project Childsafe for help. 

Never rely on a hiding spot for your gun. What game did you learn to play when you were a youngster? Yep. Hide and Seek. Do you think your children aren’t going to be good at this game? Don’t chance it — lock up your guns.

Have you ever thought about what your child will do if they’re at a friend’s house and they come across a gun? A great place to start teaching a youngster about guns is with NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe.  

Begin teaching your children gun safety long before you give them the hands-on experience. Ultimately, the choice is yours. It’s up to you. As I said, you know your children better than anyone else, and you should be able to decide. And, just as with a treat at the store, it is okay to say, “No.” If they’re not ready, they’re not ready.

Teaching your children is a bonding experience and one that is empowering to them. Once you've made up your mind to take them to the range to watch your live-fire, or to get behind the trigger, always remember to get equipment that fits and focus on safety.

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