How to teach your kids about gun safety -


Why gun safety is important for families

Blood stains the driveway outside an Alabama home where a 15-year-old was shot and killed. 

Tommy Dawson is the Chief of Police for the Auburn Police Department. He remembers the day this tragic shooting occurred.

"We were flagged down by another vehicle on the way over there, and inside the car, we found Jamon Baker suffering from a single gunshot wound to the chest," Dawson recalls.

Investigators said Jamon was accidentally shot by his cousin.

Two boys in Savannah, Georgia, were playing video games when police said one of the boys grabbed his parents' gun and pulled the trigger, killing his 10-year-old neighbor.

What these terrible shootings have in common is that children managed to get their hands on loaded guns at home.

According to the Children's Defense Fund, more than 280 million guns are owned by people in the United States.

More than 100 children and teens in the U.S. die from accidents involving guns each year, and thousands more end up emergency rooms with serious injuries because they were able to get their hands on someone else's gun too easily.

Sergeant Irwin Carmichael has spent most of his 26-year career in law enforcement teaching children and parents about the importance of gun safety.

"If you have guns in your home, you need to discuss it with your kids," Carmichael says. "You need to educate them on what to do. At a certain age, they need to know to never touch it."

Carmichael believes that simply hiding an unsecured gun in your home from a child is not a viable solution.

"It is not a good idea to hide it with no lock. It's ok to hide the gun, but at least have a gun lock on it, and have it in a lock box," Carmichael says.

By the time a child celebrates their first birthday, they can squeeze your finger with seven pounds of pressure. That's approximately the same amount of pressure necessary to squeeze the trigger of a gun.

Roger Ayscue is a gun dealer at Hyatt's Guns in Charlotte, N.C., and he's also a father of three. Besides a frank discussion about guns, he says parents also need to occasionally pull out their guns and show them to their kids.

"Eliminate the natural curiosity by saying if you want to see the gun, just ask me," Ayscue advises. "That way, if my children want to see the guns—if my son wants to clean his hunting rifle—he'll ask and then, I will get it out, and he and I will sit there together and we take that time."

One of the biggest mistakes Ayscue says a parent can make is letting a child learn all they know about guns from playing video games.

"A lot of the problem parents have with firearms is that they try to hide it away from their child. Now, these are the same parents who will allow their kids to play video games where you scroll through selections of weapons, but they don't expose them to firing a real one," Ayscue says.

If there are guns in your home, keep all weapons unloaded and uncocked in a secure container.

Gun safes are the best place to store a weapon. Some smaller gun safes require you to enter a six-digit combination before it will open.

Most gun dealers will give you a free gun lock, or you can get one at most sheriff's offices. By feeding the cable through the gun, it prevents the cylinder from closing. If a child pulls the trigger, it won't fire.

"You have to instill in kids what this gun will do, and you only have one chance. Only one chance," Carmichael says.

Whether you own a gun or not, consider this: If you allow your children to go to a friend, relative or babysitter's house, find out if they have guns and if they are properly secured.

Remember, guns and ammunition should always be kept in separate, locked locations.

If you are locking your guns in a lock box with a key, make sure the key is well hidden from children.

Additional Information:

  • By your child's first year, she can squeeze your finger with seven pounds of pressure, which is approximately the same amount needed to squeeze the trigger of a gun. (Source: Children's Defense Fund)
  • Begun in 1988, The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has reached more than 21 million children -- in all 50 states. This program was developed through the combined efforts of such qualified professionals as clinical psychologists, reading specialists, teachers, curriculum specialists, urban housing safety officials, and law enforcement personnel. (Source: National Rifle Association)
  • Although the NRA has complete gun safety rules available for specific types of firearm use (ex. hunting and competition) the following three rules are fundamental in any situation. Whether or not you own a gun, it is important to know these rules so that you may insist that others follow them:

    Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

    Whether you are shooting or simply handling a gun, never point it at yourself or others. Common sense will tell you which direction is the safest. Outdoors, it is generally safe to point the gun toward the ground, or, if you are at a shooting range, toward the target. Indoors, be mindful of the fact that a bullet can penetrate ceilings, floors, walls, windows, and doors.

    Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    When holding a gun, rest your trigger finger outside the trigger guard alongside the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.

    Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
    If you do not know how to check to see if a gun is unloaded, leave it alone. Carefully secure it, being certain to point it safely and to keep your finger off the trigger, and seek competent assistance.The following actions are crucial to lessen the dangers: Store all firearms unloaded and uncocked in a securely locked container. Only the parents should know where the container is located. Store the guns and ammunition in separate locked locations. For a revolver, place a padlock around the top strap of the weapon to prevent the cylinder from closing, or use a trigger lock; for a pistol, use a trigger lock. When handling or cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended, even for a moment; it should be in your view at all times.
  • The following "Five Myths about Guns" are from the Children's Defense Fund:

    1. Gun deaths are mostly an urban problem.
    A study published recently in Pediatrics found that rural and urban children and teens are equally likely to die from firearm injuries. They differ in how they die: urban children and teens are more likely to be homicide victims, whereas rural children and teens are more likely to be victims of suicide or accidental shootings.

    2. Guns don't kill people, people kill people.
    Anti-gun-control advocates erroneously argue that it is the deadly intent of the people wielding the gun, not the weapons, that results in deadly violence. Yet research demonstrates that the presence of a gun intensifies a violent event and increases the likelihood that someone will die. For example, a groundbreaking and often replicated study of criminal attacks in Chicago by University of California at Berkeley law professor Frank Zimring found that the circumstances of gun and knife assaults were very similar: Incidents typically were unplanned and did not involve a clear intention to kill. But having a gun on hand made it more likely that the incident would end with a fatality.

    3. More guns available for self-defense will result in safer homes and communities.
    Although this is the argument used against handgun bans, research demonstrates that in fact having a gun may make you less safe and endangers your loved ones. Higher rates of household gun ownership are correlated with higher rates of homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. Annually, there are only about 200 legally justified self defense homicides by private citizens compared with over 30,000 gun deaths. More guns in the home also means more guns on the street. As many as a half a million guns are stolen each year landing in the hands of people who are, by definition, criminals. This net increase in household gun ownership would mean more homicides and perhaps even more burglaries.

    4. Guns are already sufficiently regulated.
    While there are some restrictions on gun purchases by teenagers, convicted felons, and people with a history of severe mental illness, much more is needed. The U.S. has an estimated 283 million guns in civilian hands, the equivalent of nine firearms for every 10 men, women and children in America. Contrast that with the fact that there were 245 million registered cars, trucks and motorcycles in 2007. The result of so many guns and weak federal and state firearms regulations is an unacceptably high rate of gun deaths and injuries – higher than any other industrialized nation in the world. Stronger gun laws would significantly reduce the epidemic of senseless gun deaths. Records on gun transactions could be used to solve crimes and track criminals. Requirements that all guns be stored in a secure manner would prevent more guns from being stolen or accessed by children.

    5. Most gun homicides occur in the course of another felony.
    Another myth is that only the bad guys kill with guns. Of the known circumstances surrounding homicides in 2007, fewer than one in four was the result of a felony where the victim was killed with a gun while being raped or robbed or in the course of another serious offense. More than 40 percent of all homicides in 2007 were the result of an argument that turned deadly.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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