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And therein lies the paradox – Guns, Kids, and Safety

A friend of mine lives with her family in the western part of Missouri, and she’s recently gotten her own website in order to blog – and she does, as prolifically as I did when I first started.

She posted today in response to a news story out of St. Louis, wherein a 7-year-old girl shot her 1-year-old brother on accident, due to their 18-year-old uncle being a dumbass and storing his firearm in a backpack.

Her first sentence?  “This is why I don’t like guns.”

She then goes on to say that it’s fine with her if you have guns, but you need to keep them locked up around children.

Oh, and teach your children how to safely handle them (or, rather, NOT handle them) if they should ever come across a firearm.

And if you can’t get to your gun when an intruder comes in, well, at least your children will be safe.

I love this woman dearly.  She’s one of about 4 people that I’m friends with whom I feel that when we talk again after a long period of not-talking, it’s like we’ve never been separated.  She’s the only person I’ve ever had a letter-writing exchange with past the age of 12 (where pen-pals were encouraged in class, and even chosen for us).  She’s hilarious, and very smart.

There’s no “but” to that statement. No qualifiers, no hidden “bless her heart”s.  Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not sharing this information to soften the blow of an insult – I’m sharing it because it’s true, and because I want to make it clear that she means a lot to me.

Even in her entry, you can SEE that intelligence.  She realizes the other side of the arguments she’s making, and points them out.  Even though it’s human error that causes these accidental shootings, the guns are still bearing the brunt of her scorn, however.

I’ve had to worry about my nephew being in my house at times, because I didn’t have a gun safe in Memphis.  He turned 4 this month, and he’s right in the middle of the age where everything needs to be picked up and messed with in order for him to feel comfortable in his environment.  THAT’S a scary thought for anyone who has any shred of concern for the safety of others, particularly children.

And, as my friend points out, kids do stupid things (like eat their vitamins like candy, even after you tell them not to), and you have to take that into account pretty much every moment of their lives while they’re under your care.

I know that quite a few of you have small children that you’ve managed to keep alive and accident-free – Uncle, Robb, Rusty, and Alan, to name a few – throughout their lives, even while you make shooting a major focus in your life.

I have a request – while not being disrespectful (because, y’all, this is one of my best friends), how would you describe your success with concern to having children and guns in the same house? I know that having a safe is mandatory, but in order to actually exercise your caution with regard to possible intruders, you carry a weapon with you, or have one in a place where it’s relatively easy for you to reach in the event of an emergency.

How do you successfully have the two co-exist in your home? And, in addition, how do you ensure the safety of your children when you have guests or visitors who might not be as trustworthy as you hope?


(I don’t feel qualified to share my opinion, since I haven’t consistently ever had a child in my home for longer than an overnight visit, and at those times, my nephew was pretty much sequestered to the living room with his mom.  I’ve been very fortunate in that I have the freedom to have my guns accessible without having to worry about them being futzed with by anyone else in the house – my husband and my in-laws are all avid shooters, responsible adults, and are well-versed in gun safety.)

9 comments to And therein lies the paradox – Guns, Kids, and Safety

  • this is one of those subjects that i think there really is no “right” answer on how to best treat the situation… ultimately, i think parents should use their best judgement and do what they think is right. even a 7 year old can get into a safe with a key, so nothing is ever foolproof. the only thing we can do is voice our opinion, give people options, and pray they’re smart enough to handle it the way that will keep their kids out of danger. kwim? i don’t have enough experience with guns to be able to handle one safely myself, so i don’t feel comfortable having one around, locked up or not… so we go with the “just don’t keep one around” method.

  • You can keep guns locked and still get to them quickly if you buy the right safe. This post is a few years old, but I bet you can still get the Fort Knox Pistol Box.

    And no, I make no money off these safes.

    So when you are up, the gun should be with you. When it isn’t with you, if it is in one of these, you could still get to it in a few seconds. (If it’s 3 PM, and your gun is in the bedroom, when the thug breaks in the front door, it might as well be on the moon.)

    The “should it be locked or not?” is the wrong question. Gun owners do have a responsibility to ensure that their guns never get in the wrong hands – like kids. It is the same responsibility to keep the kids safe from the urban goblins of the world. It is all about safety.

    And Nobody – there are no guarantees in this world. That doesn’t mean you are off the hook for taking some simple precautions. Fine you don’t want them cause you feel it is a risk. Read up on some of the home invasions that have made the news in the past few years. (The kind where they hold the kids hostage and take the father out to get money) Then tell me what other risks you run. Are the poisons in your home? Tools? Stairs? A swimming-pool? (That last is VERY dangerous.) A dog? (Look up the CDC info on dog-bites and children) The world is full of risks, and you can’t protect your kids from life – and not make them crazy. You choose the risks you want. But those choices create other risks.

  • Mikee

    Keeping a handgun loaded and near-instantly available for defensive use, while keeping that same weapon safe from free-range children in the home, is a problem with a range of solutions.

    The gun in the gun safe, ammo stored in a separate locked container, children “protected” by absence of the weapon, is one end of the range. The weapon is essentially unavailable for self defense.

    The gun on your hip in a holster, loaded with one in the chamber, cocked & locked, children “protected” again by their lack of access to the weapon, is the other end of the range. The weapon is immediately available for self defense. Me, I would move out of that neighborhood or at least proactively put up a layered defense.

    Training kids that tools are not toys works from a very early age. Tools are used only to do their specific job. Toys are used in play.

    If you teach your kid that guns are dangerous tools, much like a circular saw or a hammer, they can understand that it has both proper and improper uses. Then they can tell some other kid who finds a gun in somebody else’s house that a gun is not a toy and not to play with it. This is likely a better way to avoid a tragedy than expecting your kid just not to touch something that is dangerous – and hence attractive.

    Also, teaching your child to shoot from an early age impresses on them like nothing else that the purpose of the firearm tools is to put holes in things – paper or tin cans or whatever the gun points at when shot. This is better learned from you than from playing with somebody else’s just-discovered gun with no adults around.

  • I grew up (with two brothers and a sister) in a house with guns on an open gun rack with the ammunition easily accessible. I got my first air gun when I was about 8 and my first rim fire rifle when I was about 10. I kept them (and their ammunition) in my room and was free to take them out and shoot them at will. Of course, I was raised in the country and this was acceptable and expected at the time.

    I raised two kids (now 25 and 22 respectively and with kids of their own) with unlocked guns and ammo.

    Don’t get me wrong…I think safes are a great idea and I do own one now…it just never crossed my mind when my kids were young because I grew up in a home without one. Had I thought about it, I probably would have gotten one back then just to be safer.

    The point is that supervision and education are the keys. Like many others have said before me (including SayUncle in linking to this post), taking the mystery and intrigue out of it by letting them handle the guns and teaching them about then in a controlled environment, and making sure they know that whenever they want to do so, they can handle them and shoot them. You’ll salve their curiosity and the urge to “play with” guns when you’re not around will be much reduced if not eliminated entirely.

    One of the main reasons I’d be sure to have a safe today is that most kids aren’t trained in gun safety any more. When I was growing up everyone had guns and everyone knew how to use them. When my friends had young kids, being mainly military families, it was much the same. Today, I would be primarily worried about other people’s (uneducated) kids being around in a home with unsecured guns. A safe is definitely a good idea for those situations.

    Contrary to popular modern “conventional wisdom”, guns and kids are not incompatible with a little common sense and proper parenting.

    Not to mention the fact that statistically speaking, one’s child is MUCH more likely to die of accidental drowning, poisoning or suffocation (not to mention being ASTRONOMICALLY more likely to die in a car crash) than to be killed in a gun accident.

  • Laughingdog

    “And, in addition, how do you ensure the safety of your children when you have guests or visitors who might not be as trustworthy as you hope?”

    I ended up back in an apartment after my last divorce, and own multiple firearms. In order to keep them out of the hands of curious children of friends that might come over, I swapped out the door knob on one of my closets with one that has a key lock. If I’m going to have visitors, one firearm goes on my hip and the others get locked into the closet.

    “If you teach your kid that guns are dangerous tools, much like a circular saw”

    That’s the exact same comparison I use at the local youth competitive pistol club when we get a child that’s nervous about trying a firearm the first time. It’s amazing how too much TV really conditions them to see firearms as some evil object to be feared.

  • IMHO, Good child gun safety is like onions (and Ogres), it has layers. By this, I mean don’t just do one thing and hope it’s enough.

    I have pee wees aged 2 and 5 (both girls); here is what I do.

    The first layer is education. Both girls are aware of the firearms in the house and see them often (as a hobby, I hand sew leather concealment holsters and you can’t wet mold a holster without the gun in it). I teach the girls that the firearms are “Daddy’s” and that they are for grownups only, and teach them that should they ever see one when Daddy isn’t in the room that they should not touch it. Firearms are NOT play toys. If they should ever see a firearm while at a friends house they should stay away from it and tell an adult emediately. When they get older, they will be taught to shoot should they show any interest (if they don’t, they won’t be forced).

    The second layer is access. I almost always have a gun “strapped on” as it were, but other than that, everything else is in the safe. There are occasions that I am using a gun for creating a holster pattern or wet molding etc (see note about holster making above), and in those occasions the firearms are kept unloaded. I mean, who whats to shoot their… um… you-know-what off because they are stupidly creating a holster pattern with a loaded gun? Ammo for these guns are kept seperate.

    The third layer is simply knowing your kids. My 5 year old is somewhat gun curious, so I have had her out shooting the airsoft once or twice and she is allowed to touch the firearms if she asks and I check them to make sure they aren’t loaded first. That curiousity isn’t so much that it would override her dicipline, but I am careful just in case. The 2 year isn’t interested at all. She would rather play with her dollys. I’m not saying that I don’t have to worry about her (and I do) I am just saying that I don’t have to worry about her sneaking to play with the “GUN” because guns don’t spark her interest. The important thing is to keep watch so that if that changes I can be sure to understand what to look out for.

    I wouldn’t think of having guns in the house without using all three of these layers of safety. Does a layer get missed sometimes? Yes, nobody’s perfect. But much like the four rules that we, as “gun people”, all follow, they interlock and it would take a breakdown in more than one layer for tragedy to happen.


    disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am just a dude. I did spend 6 years in the Marines, and I grew up in a household with numerous firearms that I had physical access to on a constant basis from the time I was a small child. SO… I may, or may not know what I am talking about. Of course I think I do, that is why I posted.

  • jimbob86

    I also grew up with arms and ammo readily available. It was as inconcievable to monkey with dad’s guns as it would have been to monkey with his power tools: THAT was askin’ for a butt whippin’ …. We had our BB guns at 8 or so, and if we mis-used them, we answered for it.

    I lock up my guns…… mostly because I spent a lot of money on them and want to make them more difficult to steal. My kids understand what guns are capable of: they have shot them all, and all but the eldest don’t like anything bigger than their .22′s.

  • I think the most important thing was covered by Sailorcurt, “Take the mystery out of them”. I keep my guns locked in various ways, but my kids always know they can handle them when they ask! I never say no. That is important. They are not a mystery and every time they ask to see a gun, I get to tell a story about what happens if….

  • Joe

    I have little to add that hasn’t already been said, but I can add one thing specifically that’s been alluded to… Take the mystery out of guns. My father taught me from an early age that under no circumstances should I handle them without him around, but that anytime I wanted to see one, just ask. He’d take it out, show me how it works, remind me of the safety rules, and then store it once I was satisfied. Because I knew I could ask him to see one anytime (more or less), it never even occurred to me to dig one out on my own. …And I was a curious kid, too. (New toy? First thing; let’s take it completely apart. Yep, that was me.)