Educating my children about guns has always been top of mind for me. I grew up in South Dakota, the Pheasant Hunting Capital of the world! Every fall, during opening session, I would join my dad and his crew of friends, walking the fields, hunting pheasants. I would always "warm-up" by shooting skeet with them before the hunt began. I feel like somehow I just knew guns could be dangerous. I don't remember talking about it much as a child but I know our family was very careful.
Now, I have mixed emotions about what and how to talk with my kids. Do we ignore the gun discussion? Do I allow guns in my home? Are Nerf guns ok? What about toy machine guns or toy rifles with a spotting scope? Is it enough just to talk about guns being bad? How do I talk about what's going on in the working without sending them into a state of panic and hysteria like me!? Do they get what I really mean when I say guns are dangerous?
I did an experiment a few years ago. I took a squirt gun, painted it black, laid it in the front yard and watched intently to see what my kids would do. My daughter noticed it first. She looked at it, looked again and came running to me, scared out of her mind. I asked her to keep quiet so we could see what my son would do when he noticed. Well, I was disappointed. We JUST had the talk about guns which went something like this..."you never touch a gun, no matter what, even if you think it might be fake". What did he do? He picked it up, naturally put his finger on the trigger and pointed it at his head as he was trying to figure out how it worked. I was devastated, really??, we JUST talked about this!
I think its important to teach them gun safety and proper ways and times to use a gun. But is it enough? This summer, I let my children experience the power of guns. Back in South Dakota we talked about gun safety and they had the opportunity to shoot a BB gun and air-rifle. We wore safety goggles, shot at a target, bystanders stayed well away from the "shooting range" and more. Did they feel the power? Do they understand the danger? I hope so but only time will tell.
What scares me most how other people are talking with their kids about guns. Is everyone addressing the dangers of guns with ether kids? This week there was an incident where a 10-year old brought a gun to summer camp and it accidentally went off. Luckily, no one was hurt. But a 10-year old? A 10-year old has access to a real gun and real ammunition? How can this be? and more importantly, how can I let my children out of my sight EVER with friends that may have a gun? How will we know?
So, unfortunately, yet again, the discussion over dinner was about guns and gun safety. Mostly focused on "If you See something, Say Something. Did you know that phrase "If You See Something, Say Something®" is actually a registered trademark of the Department of Homeland Security?
I encourage you to talk with your kids. Talk again and again and again. And experiment! See what your child would do if a gun was lying in your front yard.
Here are a few resources I have found helpful in teaching our kids about gun safety: