Guns and minors. Quite the touchy subject.
A couple of months ago, I was teaching my FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation class, and one of the employees of the range came up to me with a question. He said that there was a person in the lobby that wanted to know if I taught minors about gun safety, and if there was an age limit for my classes. This mother had an 11 year old she wanted to take the class.
I told him that I did indeed provide firearms safety training to minors. I told him that so far, my youngest firearms student was 13 years old.
I explained that I had three rules for teaching minors: (1) The child’s parent or legal guardian had to attend the same class, (2) The child had to be tall enough to be able to shoot over the shooting bench at the range without assistance, and (3) The child had to have the emotional maturity to be able to sit through the classroom portion of the class and to understand before the class that guns can be dangerous or deadly if misused.
I make it crystal clear to the parent that I have a very low threshold when it comes to removing a child (along with their chaperoning parent) from the class. It is the parent’s responsibility to know their child.
So far this year, I’ve taught nearly a dozen minors, and not a single one has been removed from a class. These parents know their kids very well.
Much of America – and certainly most of California – has an aversion to teaching minors about guns and gun safety. The belief is that by giving them such information, it will somehow make them more prone to using a gun. I ask these people if their beliefs on drug and alcohol education follow the same logic – that by teaching them about these things means they will more likely abuse them.
I generally get a steely stare… and no response!
When we hear the very infrequent reports of a child accidentally being injured or killed by a handgun, the first reaction is to call for a restriction on guns. Legislators write another law, but nothing changes – at least with regards to children being made more safe around guns.
You see, you can write all the laws you want about gun locks and keeping guns unloaded around children, but if the adult in the home disregards the law – intentionally or not – the child can still end up hurt.
Laws are reactive. Parents need to be proactive. At a very early age – as soon as your child has the emotional maturity – you should teach them about gun safety. You may never allow a gun to be present in your own home, but the homes your children visit may not have similar restrictions.
The NRA has a wonderful program called Eddie Eagle. It is focused on kids between pre-K and grade 3. The entire intent is to teach kids to stay away from guns. STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave The Area. Tell An Adult.
Eddie Eagle is never shown touching a firearm, and he does not promote firearm ownership or use. The program prohibits the use of Eddie Eagle mascots anywhere that guns are present. The Eddie Eagle Program has no agenda other than accident prevention – ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun. The program never mentions the NRA. Nor does it encourage children to buy guns or to become NRA members. The NRA does not receive any appropriations from Congress, nor is it a trade organization. It is not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition.
Most children in this age group simply don’t have the ability to render a gun safe – so instead, it makes sense to teach them to get out of harm’s way. They DO have the emotional maturity to understand that concept.
You as a parent (or grandparent) have the obligation to be proactive in a child’s education – not some legislator or state agency. You may only feel comfortable with Eddie Eagle-style education. That’s fine.
You may feel that, once they are a little bit older – and more emotionally mature – they should learn more in-depth usage, safety and storage techniques. That’s fine as well.
Keep in mind, though, you need to assume that at some point, they will come in contact with a handgun or rifle. How they react in that situation is wholly dependent upon the education – or lack thereof – they’ve received.