Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gun Safety, Not Gun Control

I know -- I sound like a representative of the NRA.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth; I actually think some gun control is a good thing. But we're not talking politics here; we're talking boys. And when it comes to gun play, I think our best bet is to seize the teachable moment.

Without being all preachy -- because, as William Pollack, PhD, author of Real Boys says, "the last thing you want to do is shame your child" -- explain what guns are. Explain what they are for --and what they are not.

And then, whether you want to or not, discuss gun safety. My biggest fear, when I see my 3-year-old pick up a plastic gun and "shoot" his brothers, is that he would do the same exact thing if he found a real gun. Sadly enough, it's a distinct possibility.

A 2001 study published in Pediatrics was called, "Seeing is Believing: What Do Boys Do When They Find a Real Gun?" The investigators paired up boys, ages eight to twelve, and placed them in a room with two water pistols and an actual .380 caliber handgun. The weapons were all concealed in separate drawers. Using a one-way mirror, the investigators had a first-hand glimpse of how boys would behave when they found a real gun. (It's worth noting here that EXTENSIVE safety controls were in place.)

Sixteen of twenty-one groups of boys who found the real gun handled it. In ten of the groups, one or more of the boys pulled the trigger.

It's a sobering study, one that clearly points the need to responsible gun ownership. If you have a gun, make sure it is properly locked up at all times; if having boys has taught me anything, it's that they can find anything they're not supposed to find. (And nothing they're supposed to. Are shoes really THAT hard to find?)

Ask about guns and gun security as well. If your son is going to be playing at a friend's house, you need to know whether or not there are guns in the home -- and I'm not talking plastic guns; I'm talking real guns that can really hurt. If the friends are gun owners (and you'd be surprised how many people are), ask about how the guns are secured. If you're not happy with the answer -- or just don't feel good about your son playing in a home where there are guns -- invite the friend over to your house instead.

Most importantly, review over and over and over again what to do if your son finds a gun. Ask him what he'd do if he found a gun other than the colorful plastic ones he sees laying around the neighborhood. If the answer is, "give it to an adult," -- WRONG! Stress that he should never -- ever -- touch an unknown gun. Tell him that he should immediately call an adult and let the adult handle the situation.

Each year, over 1000 children are killed by guns. Don't let your son be one of them.


  1. Thanks, that's definitely something that ALL kids should know. But yes, boys have more of the tendency to do that type of thing.

  2. Thanks. My guns are locked in a locker...not a wood-and-glass display cabinet...a locker.

    In fact, I actually lost the keys shortly after we moved into the house 9 years ago.

    I grew up with my dad's hunting rifles and shotgun in the corner of my parents' bedroom closet. Not a safe thing. There were no trigger locks. The ammunition was there with them. It seems I'm lucky to not have killed, or injured myself or someone else.

    But I didn't. It was made very clear that we were not to touch the weapons without adult supervision. We were educated to the dangers of the weapons.

    Even so, there was one incident I remember clearly that could have maimed or killed. I got a shotgun shell out. Fortunately, I removed the shot, wad and powder. Then I pounded on the metal part with a hammer. I exploded the primer. That scared the bejeezus out of me. I don't remember my age. I was maybe 7 or 8.

    I was a curious boy. I believe my intention was to see what was inside. That's how I am. I like to see how things work. I take things apart to learn the workings. That's why I am a machine maintenance technician.

    Knowing my older boys are very much like me, I am glad I have everything locked up. I'm even glad I haven't bothered to get replacement keys to the locker. I can imagine them swiping the keys out of curiosity.

    If there are firearms in a household with children, they must be trigger-locked, locked in a vault or locker and the ammunition kept locked up in a separate place. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    If, and when, I get keys to my gun locker I will open it up and discuss safety with my children. In fact, by the time I get around to it the twins will most likely be of age to attend hunter safety.

    My experience growing up illustrates two things:

    1) Education is essential. Children need to learn to respect the firearms for what they are. If I had not been educated, I would probably be dead.

    2) Education is not enough. Firarms and ammo need to be locked up in separate places. I had free access to a shotgun shell. Fortunately, I knew enough to remove the parts that could have killed me and didn't get killed or maimed in the process.

    Curiosity killed the kid.

  3. ok, first, thanks for the comment, can't believe i hadn't found you either! 4 boys, crazy and awesome all at the same time!!! Guns, hmmmm, I used to be an "absolutely not!" but then i found my boys making anything and everything into a gun. Now it is this: I do not buy toy guns, we have owned water guns, if they make a gun or are using a gun the rule is it is never NEVER to be pointed at a person or animal, imaginary aliens are perfectly fine! I have allowed my children to own real sling shots and also recure bows for target practice. My boys are compassionate and understand my rules. I should also explain that we do not eat animals so that is why the no animals. My sister hunts and we are fine with hunting for the right reasons, its just not for us. So I guess "yes with stirct rules"