As my friends’ children rapidly grow, one of the most common questions I receive is, “How old should my child be before he/she receives gun lessons?” While I am far from a gun expert, my answer and advice is always the same.
Growing up on a farm, my parents felt it was necessary that I learn to defend our herd of cows from dangerous coyotes. While they were determined to have me properly gun trained by eight years old, this training schedule took a rapid turn when my grandfather’s close friend was accidentally shot by his four-year-old daughter. He had taken his handgun out of his gun safe to clean it, and forgetting to check to see if it was loaded, he left it on the coffee table for a minute or two unattended. Mimicking her dad’s motions she had seen many times on camping trips, she pointed the gun at her father and shot him in the chest.
At five years old, I found myself in gun lessons. My parents wanted to make sure I knew how to properly respect, hold, aim and fire a gun. I grew up giving guns great authority and respect, never treating them as children do today. I have had several friends say it does not matter if their five-year-old plays with an unloaded weapon. My response is that in my presence, children will not disrespect the authority of firearms. This is how I was raised, because accidents were all too real in my young world.
There is no magical, coming of age when children should learn to shoot guns. The bottom line is that it is parents’ jobs to help facilitate safe gun handling practices. This includes if parents do not own guns. Children can be at other children’s homes and it is important they respect the authoritative positions guns hold. They are not simply video game toys, but they have the ability to kill. Understanding this concept is important and when children are able to grasp the reality of death, parents can begin explaining the responsibility behind honoring guns.
Parents are responsible for teaching children gun safety rules, including when children leave the house. Federal statistics show that half of U.S. households’ own firearms, which means that children have a substantial chance of coming into contact with a live firearm once in their childhoods. Children need to know how to react if they encounter a firearm and it is the parents’ responsibility to provide them with this necessary real-life training.
Most experts recommend speaking to children about gun safety the first time they show an interest in firearms. This time may vary for every child, but instead of banishing weapons, parents need to invest in safety lessons, explaining rules and answering children’s growing curiosities about guns.
When children are ready to learn how to shoot, safety is vital. Jumping Targets recommends starting children with .22 pistols or rifles. Their AR500 targets are designed to make bullets ricochet at 20-degree angles. Meant to last, these moving targets are safe, “jumping” around and allowing children to practice their aim instead of parents constantly resetting traditional paper targets. Children also get the benefit of seeing immediate results, which gratifies them. Shooting targets come in a variety of sizes, but the 2.5-inch steel gun target is perfect for youngsters and beginners alike.