How young is too young to talk to your child about firearms? It might surprise you to know that I started talking to my daughter about firearms soon after she started walking.
I am the person who carries a firearm daily. I draw my gun daily, teach firearm classes, evaluate firearm gear, and practice with my gun all of the time. I don’t feel like the work I do is something I should hide from my daughter. She has seen the tools of my trade. She is familiar with firearms, holsters, and other gun-related equipment.
It was not long after she started talking that she asked me about my gun. My daughter is the only kid that I have. Honestly, I was a little nervous about when I should start talking to her about guns and what I should say.
When to Talk to Your Child about Guns
When deciding when to have the talk with our daughter, my wife and I threw around some ideas. We had well-meaning friends who encouraged us to hide our firearms from our daughter. Other people told us to explain to her that a gun is not a toy and leave it at that.
I was not fond of these ideas. These were not the techniques I used when I showed her other dangerous things in the house, like electrical outlets or chemicals. I sat her down and explained to her what the danger was and how it could hurt her. In the end, I realized that the same way you teach a child to stay away from the hot stove is the same way you can teach your child to treat firearms with respect.
My wife and I tried to take potentially dangerous situations and use them as a time to teach our daughter. When my daughter first started asking about guns, I explained to her that it’s what I use for work. It’s not a toy. I emphasized to her that my gun was something that she should never touch.
As I mentioned, I clean my guns daily. At around three years old, my daughter would come over to me and ask me if I was cleaning daddy's guns. I decided that instead of just telling her not to touch my guns, I needed to address some of the curiosity she was showing. I needed to take some mystery and glamour out of “daddy’s guns.”
Creating a Unique Approach
I started by disassembling my gun. Then I showed it to my daughter disassembled. I asked her if I permitted her to touch my gun and she said, “No only adults can touch it.”
I was pleased with her response because it showed that she retained some of the instructions I had given her previously about my gun. However, this time I told her she could get close to my disassembled firearm. Her eyes got big, and she was hesitant to go near it.
Poking the gun with her fingers, she said, “This gun is just for daddy.” Her curiosity satiated, she walked away. A few minutes later, she came back and asked if we could play once I was done with work.
I felt happy with that experience because it showed that my daughter understood that guns are dangerous and should be handled with care. She has grasped the fact that guns are not a toy. This is something that many adults still need to learn. I feel that using this unique approach addressed her inquisitiveness in a way that would not have happened if I just hid my gun from her and never let her safely get close to it.
Finding the Right Balance for Your Child When It Comes to Teaching Gun Safety
Some will say that three years old was too young for my daughter to see a firearm. Others will argue that I waited too long. My wife and I felt that what we did was right for our daughter. I had a talk with my daughter that lasted all of five minutes, but it created a foundation of gun safety that my wife and I can continually build on.
Parents need to teach children about gun safety, not only in words but also through actions. They need to make gun safety a routine. It has to be as automatic as putting on a seat belt when you get in a car.
My wife and I will come up with more creative ways to test our daughter to make sure that our training is working. One idea we have is to leave a disassembled firearm on the coffee table and walk away to where she can’t see us. We will ask her to get something from the table and see what she does.
The steps you follow must be uniquely yours. Teaching children how to be safe around firearms is something that every parent who owns a gun must do. Remember, you set the example for your child. You have to do your part by being a safe gun owner.