EDUCATING THE NEXT GENERATION ABOUT FIREARMS SAFETY AND SHOOTING
Summer is winding down and the kids are heading back to school soon. School clothes, school supplies…there is much to do to get ready for a year of education. But there’s education that most kids don’t get at school, so it falls completely on parents to do. That’s the education of our children, grandchildren or friends children on firearms safety and firearms use. While it’s great to take the kids to the range and teach them how to shoot, don’t leave out important information. Educating our kids on the subject of firearm safety and shooting is a subject that just might save their life. And we can start teaching them sooner than you might think.
Safety Before Actual Shooting
At what age are they ready? There’s no magical age that children are ready to learn about firearms. Deciding when they are ready to learn depends a lot on their maturity levels and not all children mature at the same rate. But you can start TALKING to kids about guns at a very early age. The National Rifle Association has a terrific program called Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program. This program is not about teaching the “four safety rules” as we have come to know them. This is about learning what to do if they should find a gun, in their own home or in a friend’s home or anywhere. Simple to learn, easy to repeat, “Stop! Don’t Touch! Run Away! Tell a Grownup!” The tempo and words that are familiar to little ones makes it easy to memorize and repeat. While the NRA says this program is for kids from pre-k to fourth grade, there is no harm in starting them as soon as they’re able to talk a bit.
As they grow up, begin to add in the “Four Safety Rules” that are widely accepted in the shooting world.
These rules will need some additional explanation and open up some dialogue between you and your children. Consistency is key here. Help them not only be able to recite them back to you, but explain to you what they mean. Take them to the range a time or two (with all the necessary safety gear) to watch you shoot. Be a good example for them when you are shooting. Then, once they have mastered these safety rules and have displayed maturity and exhibited responsible behavior, they may be ready for their first range trip to shoot.
First Shooting Range Trip
Once they have learned, can explain and respect The Four Safety Rules, they are perhaps ready to go to the range with you to shoot. Some ranges have a minimum shooting age, so be sure to check before you get there. A range that isn’t overly crowded without a lot of external activities going on is ideal for a first shooting trip. There are less distractions and the student can hear the teacher a little bit better. Although it’s really exciting and tempting to let them get that first shot out of the way, learning or reviewing the fundamentals first tends to make the lesson go much better. It also helps to ease the nervousness if there is any for the child. Make sure they use eye and ear protection that fits well. Most important is to never, ever leave the child alone with the firearm for even a second. Don’t go back to the car, don’t grab another target or box of ammo. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye. Also, don’t be rushed or impatient. This is a trip that your child will likely remember for the rest of their life (I do) so make sure it’s a positive experience.
Educating your children on firearms safety and shooting will not guarantee their safety, but it will certainly give them information that might make a difference. You are responsible for keeping your firearms stored and secured from unauthorized access to keep them safe. Also, all children are different in maturity, personality and learning ability. This education should not be a one-time deal, but should continue all the way through to adulthood. If you need some additional information about educating children, there are some fabulous websites to check out.
Also, check out some of the programs offered at your local range. For example, The Arms Room in League City, Texas offers a Youth Camp every summer for a week. They cover many topics in addition to firearms safety and shooting, such as interaction with law enforcement and their K-9s and other first responders. The kids have a blast, they’re safe, and they learn something!
Written for GunGoddess.com by Tracy Hughes. Tracy is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, facilitator for A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League and the owner of Brilliant Backstraps.