Kids And Guns: A Few Reminders


Left to right: Daisy pump BB gun, .177 air rifle, Ruger American .22 LR with Leupold scope, Ruger American
Ranch .223 with compact stock and Burris scope. Over the years these four can take kids from dinging tin
cans at five yards to ringing steel at 500 yards.

Growing up on the farm in the 1950’s and 1960’s, firearms were considered everyday tools. Keeping vermin under control is part of running a mixed farm — protecting baby chicks from crows and magpies, grain bins from rats and mice, the garden from gophers, squirrels and raccoons are daily chores.

Dad’s Savage pump .22 and 20-gauge shotgun stood behind the kitchen door. Naturally with four kids in the house our parents had to be concerned with firearm safety. Their solution was to tell us, “Don’t touch the guns”! So we didn’t. I was fascinated with guns from an early age. I’d see them standing there, but not for a second did it occur to me to reach out a hand and touch one.

If this sounds as though our parents were brutal disciplinarians, perish the thought. I don’t recall them ever raising a hand to us, and seldom a voice. Would this be a feasible plan today? I’m afraid not. Even if our own children can be trusted, who knows about the neighbors’ kids?

My policy is to keep all firearms and ammunition under lock and key unless they’re in use. Not just locked, but out of sight. A casual visitor to the house, or electricians or plumbers doing their work, won’t see any firearms or ammunition or even any indication of an interest in guns and shooting.

It irks me to have to do so, but sadly this is the world we live in. Just last week my brother and sister-in-law left their farm to go on a cruise. The first night after they left someone arrived with a pickup and trailer, broke into a storage shed and stole two UTV’s. Clearly this was someone who knew what they had, where it was stored and when they would be away.

Dave set an orange on top of a length of plastic tubing and shot it with a .22 LR HP. Better than any words
it shows a child what a firearm can do, and why firearm safety rules must be strictly followed.

Toys Vs. Reality

Keeping our own guns secure isn’t enough. We need to begin teaching our children firearm safety early and consistently. Satisfy their natural curiosity. Children see guns used on TV and likely see us shooting at the range. From the time our daughter was 2 or so I made it clear I would show her any of the guns whenever she asked. As she got older I began letting her hold a gun, reinforcing the basics of always clearing the gun first, and being aware of muzzle control.

Toy guns are an issue. I had toy guns from about age 3 up, and I turned out okay (I think!). I’m still ambivalent about the issue. When our daughter was around 3 she asked for a toy gun, and after some discussion we got her a plastic rifle. I insisted, though, on following basic firearm safety rules. It made me proud one day when I overheard her say to an older cousin, “No, never point guns at people, only at targets.”

Show them why firearm safety is so important. It isn’t enough to say they can be dangerous. Kids don’t have the frames of reference to understand. They need to be shown. If you have the luxury of a private, safe place to shoot, try using an orange as an example. Give the kid an orange, have them squeeze it, then squeeze their own arm to make a connection. Then set another orange against a safe backstop and shoot it with a .22 LR hollowpoint. Better than any words, it will show them vividly what can happen from carelessness with firearms.

Explain how we always clean up the range when done shooting. It’s a chance to say, now let’s put the orange back together. When they say it can’t be done, you can reply, you’re right, it can’t be fixed. Once a shot has been fired we can’t take it back.

Are They Ready?

I’m not going to suggest at what age a child is ready to shoot. I will say, it’s up to you to ensure the child has fun and is enthusiastic. No child will remain interested very long if the firearm is too big and heavy, or has too much recoil (which for most children means any recoil).

This is a handgun magazine, and there is no more dedicated handgunner than I am, but I like to see a child (actually any new shooter) learn safety and competency with long guns before shooting handguns. Short guns are so easy to inadvertently point in an unsafe direction. I feel better when muzzle control is an unconscious skill before taking up handgun shooting.

I don’t need to tell you this but will anyway: ear and eye protection is mandatory when shooting or observing firearms being shot. It’s a good idea to keep a few sets of soft earplugs and safety glasses in your range gear.

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