When your child is of an age where handling a gun may be appropriate and you wish to raise them knowing how to use and treat guns, there are several best practices that will help your child treat them with the proper respect they deserve.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that children will mimic what they see and hear, and this isn’t just mimicking parents, but mimicking friends and the media. This means that it is even more important for you, and close family and friends, to set a proper example for children when handling guns yourselves. A big part of this is to make sure you are following safety habits, such as keeping your firearms properly cleaned and stored with the safety on and unloaded with ammunition stored in a completely separate container. You’ll also want to make sure that all firearms are well out of reach of children and that you have the keys to the locks in a separate location.
It’s also important that your child knows what to do if they come across a gun. They should know that they should never touch it, they should leave it and alert an adult.
From there, teaching children how to use them starts with demystifying them. Children only know about guns from what they see and hear from others, usually media. No matter how you might feel about the portrayals, movies and shows often obscure the consequences of what happens when someone uses a gun improperly. Furthermore, it puts a veil of fascination around them.
If your family enjoys shooting sports or hunting, showing them how to handle a gun becomes even more important. This process starts with letting them get a handle on the firearms they might see you use, of course under supervision. During this time, you can show them how to check whether it is loaded in both the chamber and the magazine and whether the safety is on or off. The other part they should learn at this point is to never point it at someone or something, but instead in a safe direction. At this point, they should know that they only time they should touch a trigger is if they want it to go off.
A good way to show them the true consequences of using a gun is taking them to a target shooting venue where they can see the destroyed targets. Some who work with children and new shooters take a melon of some sort and shoot it from about 10 paces with a 12 gauge. Either way, it shows the true power of a gun.
About a year before they’re ready to shoot with a .22 and 20 gauge, give them a bb gun. They’re a good way to teach good safety habits as well as make sure they don’t develop bad ones. You want to make a point of treating it like a real gun. Take short hunting trips where their bb gun is unloaded and insist that they carry it the whole time with it pointed in a safe direction. At the end of the day, if you take some bbs with you, you can do some safe target shooting.
From there, you can spend time at the range where they can get used to the noise and how to control the gun when they fire. Often in the excitement of shooting, they may forget to be as careful with handling the gun when they should. This is a good time to create a teaching moment rather than when you’re out in the open. Insist on things like ear and eye protection, and don’t forget to show off these things yourself as well.
Finally, when they are ready to hunt with you, carefully pick the first hunts. The first hunts should be relatively sedentary hunts where the game virtually comes to you. The first time out, its advised that you leave your own gun at home so that you can keep your full attention and training on your new hunter from whispering advice and give go-aheads to go through taking the safety off and following the steps of shooting. Ramp up to the more difficult and longer hunts as they improve.
Ultimately, raising your kids to handle and treat guns with respect comes down to how you treat them yourself and how you work with them through learning how to handle them and shoot with them.
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