In our house, August and September is when we start thinking about back to school. Fresh crayons, new notebooks, new pencils and pens, maybe some slick new shoes. Although now with a senior in high school and a sophomore in college, the list is a little different, but still miss that fresh crayon smell. I thought a good topic for this month’s blog might center around kids and firearms safety. When it comes to kids of any age and firearms, safety must be at the forefront of any parent’s mind.
The rules here are pretty straightforward. Any firearm stored in the home should be under lock and key. Period. No exceptions. Some states have negligent storage laws of which you need to be aware. For example, a quick summary of MN Statue 609.666 NEGLIGENT STORAGE OF FIREARMS says that a person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor who negligently stores or leaves a loaded firearms where a child might be able to access it. (Click the link to read the full statute.) The good news is, that you have a multitude of options to lock your firearms: anywhere from trigger or action locks all the way up through large gun safes. It is also a good idea to keep your ammunition in a separate location in the home. It is YOUR responsibility as a gun owner to make sure firearms do not end up in the hands of someone who shouldn’t have access to them.
Education for kids is also an excellent idea. You may do everything right in YOUR own home, but what about your neighbors, your kids friends’ house, a family member’s house (maybe all their kids are gone now)? You have a couple of good options here too. Many states have youth firearms safety or hunter safety courses that kids can take. For example, in Minnesota, youth hunter safety classes can start as early as 12 years old. These classes will teach basic safety and what to do when they encounter unsafe situations. They are a good idea even if you aren’t planning to hunt. The NRA has the trusted Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program with some fun videos for kids to watch that teach the 4 rules to follow if they find a gun. Parents also can play a huge role in teaching safety and lessening fear. Bringing up my own boys, we started with BB guns, and then a little Cricket .22, teaching the 3 fundamental gun safety rules all along the way. If kids understand early on that firearms MUST be respected, and what to do if they were ever to find one, it goes a long way to ensuring safety. By the time my boys got to MN Youth Hunter Safety classes, they already knew a lot about gun safety.
Develop a home firearms safety plan. There is no magic template for this, but your safety plan should be reviewed as time goes along and your circumstances change. Think about things like, where will we store firearms, who will know the lock combinations or where the keys are, where will we store ammunition, who needs to know where the ammunition is, if you are carrying who should know, who will keep an inventory of guns in the home, who in the home needs training. All these considerations will change as your household changes, so regular review is vital.
Finally, it’s important to take your kids shooting with you, even if they don’t shoot themselves. Let them watch you put firearms safety rules into practice. Be deliberate and descriptive about your actions. Having them see the act of shooting in a safe manner can reduce a lot of anxiety and can help them think clearly about how to be safe if they ever encounter a firearm that is not made safe. Mom and Dad’s example can arguably make the largest impact on kids being safe when it comes to guns.
See you at the range!