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Main | Basic Safety Rules »

September 01, 2003

Guns and Kids

In light of Bowling for Columbine winning an award, it got me to thinking about an issue the SayUncle household is facing. Me and Mrs. Uncle have decided that the world needs a few little Uncles. We hope this comes about by the end of the summer and pray that we don’t have any difficulties.

It has, however, led to (as anyone should who owns guns) a discussion about firearms safety and children. The wife has friends (who watch a little too much Oprah) who are aghast at the fact that SayUncle will have children and firearms in his house. They ask questions like: You’re going to keep guns in your house? I say absolutely. You’re going to keep one loaded? I say: Yup, if it’s not loaded then it’s just a paperweight.

Children fatalities with firearms are not quite as common as people make them out to be. They do however make the news and are in most cases due to parental negligence. If you don’t take steps to prevent children’s access to arms, you’re an idiot. Gun safety with children depends on two things: 1) what the parents do and 2) what the kids do. I tell the Oprah crowd this and they shrug and say Oh. Their husbands are more receptive though. It may be a gender thing.

A few safety notes: Even though a small child is physically incapable of pulling most double action triggers and racking a charging handle on an AR15, we will not leave arms lying around where children can get to them. I have trigger locks to prevent their access just in case they find them. We will also likely purchase some sort of safe or a lock for the closet in which we keep guns. In other words, we will not place the weapons in a place where the kids can get them. We’ll do the same for chemicals, knives, and anything else that can hurt a child.

Also, teaching children what to do if they find a gun is important. As Eddie Eagle likes to stress, teach your kids to Stop, Don’t Touch, Leave the Area, and Tell an Adult.

I grew up in a house that always had guns. My dad was career military and is now in law enforcement. At a young age, he taught me about guns. He taught me the four rules of gun safety:

Treat all guns as if they were loaded.
Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to pull it.
Be sure of your target and what is behind it.

When I was about eight, dad took me out to a field and showed me his Smith and Wesson 38. He showed me how to load, unload, and fire it. He emphasized not to ever play with it, in the event I found it. And he told me in no uncertain terms that the gun could kill me and that if he caught me playing with it, he’d kill me if it didn’t. After I shot it, the novelty was gone (and it scared the crap out of me). I was over it and had gotten it out of my system. I never looked for the gun in the house because the curiosity involved was no longer a factor (that and fear).

At about age 10, he bought me a BB gun. I was told that I could target shoot with it anytime I wanted, as long as dad was there with me. If I did something stupid with it (like aim at a target with a house behind the target, thus violating one of the rules, which I did once), he’d take it away for a period of time and ground me. I learned to respect firearms early.

At age 12, he bought me a single shot 20 gauge shotgun and took me dove hunting. This terrified me as (at that age) I didn’t really want to kill anything. I thought I did, until I held a lifeless bird in my hand that I had killed. Again, the realization that I used a gun to kill something made me respect firearms more. And I realized I took no joy from killing things.

I knew about guns very early and not by just watching people shoot each other on TV. If a child’s only exposure to arms is through television and action movies, I think they’re more likely to be enticed into doing something stupid with them. After they watch Mel Gibson gun down 36 bad guys, the have an image that guns make them cool and powerful. Couple this with the fact that they weren’t ever taught to respect them, and the situation could get bad if they ever found one. Children often don’t realize that dying is as permanent as it gets.

I have told the wife (and she has accepted it) that I will keep the guns, I will take our children shooting, and that I will likely purchase them guns as well. She’s Ok with it, but is, understandably, a bit worried. I’ve explained to her how I learned about guns and that has eased her concerns considerably.

I have no idea how I will teach my children about politics. Ugh, I dread that day!

Posted by SayUncle