...it's everything your Grandpa should have told you.

Kids and Guns: Safety in Familiarity?

kids and guns in the home

Thoughts on Parenting with Guns in the House.

We’ve all heard the news stories. Some kids find a gun, treat it like a toy, and an innocent bystander is injured. Or worse.

As a parent with guns in the house, this subject is never too far from my mind. We have 3 sons, and another child on the way. We also have several firearms.

As a hunter, and recreational shooter, I’ve had guns around the house since well before my children were born. It was easy at first. I kept my firearms locked, or put away, where my young kids could never access them. Now things are changing. The kids are old enough to be curious about guns. They are able to climb up things, search for keys, and remember secret stashes. To be honest, I worry.

Even though gun related accidents and deaths have been on a steady decline for 20 years, it seems that the politics and emotions surrounding the issue continue to rise.

It’s a hot topic –  having kids with guns in the home.  I read stories like this and cringe about the state of gun politics in our country. It even makes me hesitate to post an article like this on a public website.

Even in this thick political climate, over 1/2 of american homes have a gun. Including mine.

Part of our mission here at RusticMan.com is to discuss and educate on topics that our Grandpa’s should have taught us as young men. Gun safety falls right smack in the middle of that target. So let’s talk a little about parenting with guns in the home.

Guns and Kids?

Most of the articles you’ll find on parenting with guns in the house from major news sources are awful; recommending over the top precautions. “Lock the gun in a safe” and “keep the ammunition separate” from the gun. I read one that even advocated “turn in your guns at the local police station to be disposed of” until the kids are out of the house, then buy another one should you choose. Really?

I keep my hunting and recreational guns locked up, sure. But what about my home defense and carry weapons? If they were locked up, they wouldn’t serve their purpose. How can I be safe and careful, but still have a gun ready for home defense?

This must be an issue for others as well. The majority of Americans who own guns give defense/protection as their primary reason. (more on that here) How can we keep a home defense weapon stored safely?

Maybe my home defense plan should include hustling from room to room, unlocking safes and loading magazines while the intruders are distracted by the left over gluten-free cupcakes on the counter, but it doesn’t. No, my plan is to have a weapon ready should the need arise.

So if I am going to have guns in the house, how can I do it safely? How can I store the gun somewhere accessible in an emergency, but also keep my family safe? How can I keep a gun ready for home defense and still secure from curious kids? Is there an answer?

Safes and Safety.

Thanks to a little ingenuity, and modern technology, we have several options available today to help parents keep their defense guns close and secure.  There are simple quick-access gun safes like the GunVault, and even biometric fingerprint opened safes like this one. These are a good option for quick access in an emergency, while still keeping everything out of curious hands.

Is there an even better way to keep our children protected than locks and safes?

As I think about what my Grandpa would  have told me, I imagine him saying something like, “Nothing will keep them safer than education and training” (insert a spit of tobacco here).  I tend to think he’s right. 

I grew up in a home with guns. My parents did too. Guns were tools. Used for hunting and defense, they were treated like any other tool. Sure, they can be used in a dangerous way but so can butcher knives, automobiles, and bleach. Perhaps the safest thing to do isn’t to coddle our kids, but rather to teach them?

Crowd-sourcing the Answer.

In doing research for this idea, I asked just about everyone I knew how they handled the situation. Some had some great ideas, tips and thoughts. Below, I’ve compiled a list of things I heard from friends, read in articles, or received in messaged from readers.

Look at the list and let me know what you think. Did I miss an obvious one? Do you have some experience that would help parents of young children? Please use the comment section below and let’s help one another navigate this issue.

“What are your thoughts on having guns and kids in the same house?”

 

1) Guns are always loaded, even if they are not. Never point a gun at anything, or pull the trigger, unless you are shooting.

- This one came up a lot. Basic gun safety 101, always treat a gun as if it was loaded.

2) Guns have a purpose, and we only use them for that purpose – shooting.

- Whether that’s hunting, targets, competition or defense, we never use a gun as a toy. They are to be respected as any other dangerous tool (ie, knives, saws, drills, bleach, cars, etc)

3) Touching a gun without permission is punishable by the highest penalty.

- There is no room for warnings on this one. Trust is paramount on issues such as these.

4) You can see the gun anytime you want, as long as you ask me and I am with you.

- One of my colleagues had this idea. He has a standing rule that anytime his kids want to look at his gun, he will get it down, make sure it’s unloaded, and allow them to look at it under his express supervision. The idea is to remove the mystery and curiosity that often leads to danger.

5) Experience is safer than restriction.

 - I heard this from several of you. Many feel that by teaching their children about gun safety at a young age while allowing them experience using firearms, their children were much safer than if they had restricted access to guns period.

 

So what do you think? What is the safe way to raise children in a home with guns?

Did you raise your kids with guns in the home? What has worked for you as a parent?

Was there something I missed? Did I overlook a key point or are folks wrong with these points? Please – share your thoughts below…

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  • Mike Dwyer

    Aaron, I have been meaning to comment on your site for a while now and a busy life keeps distracting me. I keep reading your articles here and elsewhere and I am SO…DAMN…IMPRESSED with the stuff you write, specifically because I find myself nodding my head in agreement almost always. If there was ever a fellow outdoor blogger I felt a kinship with in the last few years it has been you.

    Okay, with the mushy stuff out of the way, I’ll add my two cents here: I am about your same age and I grew up in an era and place where people were still routinely keeping guns on a rack in the back of their pickup trucks. My family operated under the premise of making guns such a regular feature of our lives that they lost their mystique quickly. My grandfather was a cop and I still remember his service revolver hanging in its holster on a chair every night. When we came to visit we simply knew that to touch it was a guaranteed beating of a lifetime but like you suggest, there were opportunities to hold it and to watch him clean it at the kitchen table while my grandmother cooked dinner.

    My dad functioned much the same way. The guns were kept unloaded in a hall closet, ready for the next rabbit hunting or deer hunting trip on our property. The ammo was stored elsewhere until we were hunting ourselves and were no longer curious. I have no idea where he specifically kept his loaded gun for home defense but it must have been well-hidden enough that we never found it while snooping for Christmas presents or any other treasures we thought we might find. When we got older he moved it to the nightstand because he trusted us.

    With my kids it was a bit easier. I have daughters and they are simply less curious about guns than boys. My daughters would help me clean my guns and I would show them how to hold them properly, etc until they were old enough to start shooting on their own. I kept the ammo in the gun safe but it was my habit to often leave my unloaded shotgun or deer rifle leaning in the corner quite often. I know many people would cringe at this notion but if you ask my now-teenage daughters what would have happened if they were caught touching them they will tell you with some exaggeration that they never wanted to find out. Today we keep an unloaded gun for defense but the ammo is just a few feet away and I have no worries. Most of my guns and ammo are stored in the gun safe.

    I believe very strongly in the approach of:

    1) Make guns a familiar sight
    2) Teach the classic rules of gun safety and re-emphasize them often
    3) Make it clear that touching a gun without permission will carry a swift and extremely unpleasant penalty
    4) Give them plenty of opportunities to handle and shoot them so they lose their mystique

    Just to re-iterate, love your site. Keep up the good work and I hope we get a chance to interact in the future.

    • Aaron Farley

      Mike – Thanks so much for sharing your story! You make some great points. Sharing in the cleaning chore is another great way to help kids lose the mystique for guns, I should have added that one to the list.

      It seems like the more I talk to people who hunted as kids, the more they say they never messed with their parent’s guns. Just another reason to expose our kids to the outdoors and hunting at a young age!

      Great tips Mike! Thanks again for the comments, and your kind words. It’s good to hear we’re striking a chord here at RusticMan!

  • http://www.AverageHunter.com/ Matt Staser

    Personally I put guns in the hands of the kids as early as I possibly could. Curiosity is the biggest cause of accidents. I want my kids to know the ins and outs of guns, know how they work, know how to load and fire them. I try to instill as much information onto them so I know they won’t be curious. I also want them to know more than whoever they are with. One of my proudest moments as a father is when my son that was 7 at the time had to tell an older gentleman to watch where he is pointing that gun. The guy was offended for a second until he realized the boy was right, then he shook his hand and apologize. I also want my kids to be an example to their friends at school or in the field. They need to be able to lead by example and also know how to handle any situation life puts them in. But, I don’t push it. I only teach as much as they want to learn plus maybe a little more.

    • Aaron Farley

      Excellent points Matt, thanks so much for sharing! Seems like familiarity breeds safety is a theme of most of our comments, emails, and tweets on this issue. Thanks for the great input and KUDOS TO YOUR SON. Sounds like his dad is teaching him well!

  • Wesley Levy

    Aaron –
    Thanks for writing this, it’s a very tough topic and one that really needs to be discussed more. Right now, I dont have kids so I keep my firearms downstairs (with the ammo in another place). i think that no matter how small, kids can have an impact as long as they know what they should do in certain situations – if they are unfamiliar with guns then they will do what kids do – treat them as toys. Unfortunately they are not toys.
    Even if kids grow up to not like guns at all, they dont need to fear them. Not liking them is one thing, but fearing them is a whole different thing.
    When I handled my first gun (a friends glock) I was 21, shaking and unsure if it was loaded. I picked it up and looked at it, then put it down for fear of an accident.

    • Aaron Farley

      Wes, you make a great point about the difference between “not liking” guns and having a “fear” of them. That’s an important distinction. At our kids age, I’m trying to use foam dart guns to teach them about gun safety, how to handle one, and when it’s okay to use one. Even with the foam ones, we don’t let them treat them like toys…even a toy gun is a gun.

      Thanks Wes!

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  • SAM

    Wonderful! I agree with Matt Staser too, curiosity is the biggest cause of accidents.