Kids and firearm safety, your thoughts?

As many here are aware, I’m a recreational sport-shooter, paper targets, trap, etc…, I’ve been a sport shooter all my life, to me, guns are simply tools, dangerous tools that must be respected, but tools nonetheless

However, my niece and nephew visit often, they are 6 and 9, respectively, Sage, my niece, isn’t really interested in guns yet, but Logan is, and often our discussion turns to firearms, he has lots of questions…

First off, all my firearms are stored out of reach, and each one is unloaded and has a trigger lock in place when not in use, I take safe storage of my weapons very seriously, the last thing I’d want to have happen is to have Sage or Logan have an “accident” with my firearms, that would be a major failing on MY part and I’d never be able to live with myself if that happened

that said, I’ve found the most effective way to “gun proof” S and L is to engage their curiosity about firearms, to NOT make them something “forbidden” and hence “cool”, I treat them like the powerful, dangerous tools to be respected they are, and I pass along that knowledge to S and L

I started off a couple years back, using the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” lessons of what to do if they encounter a firearm…
1; STOP!

I discussed with them the reasons these rules were important, L surprised me one day, I was watching a movie, and had just gotten done cleaning my Ruger 22/45 .22 caliber pistol, the bolt was locked back, and there was no magazine in the gun, L spied it, and asked why it was still out, shouldn’t it be put away when I’m not using it?

I complimented him on doing the right thing, and told him he had just passed the test I made for him, he did just what he was supposed to do, I then showed him the pistol, explained how it worked, and how even a .22 must be respected, he was satisfied and walked off, I then went back to the gun room and put the 22/45 away, happy that he had passed the test

Recently, I’ve been teaching them both Jeff Cooper’s “Four Rules”;
1; all guns are always loaded
2; do not point a firearm at anything you are unwilling to destroy/kill
3; be sure of your target and what’s beyond it
4; keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire

lessons now included watching YouTube videos of guns being used, and their effects on common produce like watermelons, canteloupes, coconuts, and such, as well as inanimate objects, L has really taken the lessons to heart, often telling me about a movie/tv show he saw where firearms were used, and more importantly, which of the Four Rules were broken, that impressed me that he has taken firearm safety to heart so strongly

So, now, whenever S or L have questions about firearms, they know they can always ask me, and they know I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to talk with them about their questions, if they want to see my firearms, they first have to tell me what the Eddie Eagle rules and Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules are and why they’re so important before they can look at/touch the firearm in question

Back when I had my Mosin-Nagant M-44, Logan wondered what the “knob thingy” on the side of the gun was, so after the rules discussion, I pulled it out of the rack, removed the trigger lock, showed him how to clear the gun and insure there was no ammo in it, I worked the bolt for him, showed him how the sights worked, basically gave him the once-over on the gun, once he was satisfied, I put the trigger lock back in, and put the gun back in the rack, once the gun was safely stored, I pulled out one of the 7.62x54R cartridges it fired, and let him hold it, then handed him a .22LR cartridge so he could compare it, his jaw dropped, in amazement at the size difference, we then watched a few YouTube vids of the M-44 in action, the combination of seeing what the gun and cartridge could do, as well as holding the cartride in his hand, made him truly respect what a gun can do

the next day, I decided to set up another teaching session, while he was at school, I stopped off at the grocery store, picked up a couple coconuts, went down to my .22 range, and shot them with my .22, shattering the coconuts, I took a vid of me shooting them and had it set up on the computer

L and S came by after school, I asked them if they wanted to see something interesting, I handed them the shattered coconuts, and told them that I had shot them to test one of my guns, I asked L what gun he thought I used, he thought it was my .30-06 Savage rifle, so, when I showed him that the shattered coconut in his hand was shattered by a “little” .22, his jaw basically hit the floor

I then said “imagine if that was someone’s head”…
see why you have to be careful and responsible?

I think that demo really hit home, they truly understood why safety is important

And you know what, S and L were quite satisfied by my explinations, they know that if at any time they have questons about guns, gun safety, or want to look at my guns, they can just ask, they see guns as a dangerous tool that must be respected, like a chainsaw or electric drill, or weedwhacker, or garden tractor or snowblower, they’re not “evil”, nor are they “cool”, they just are, and until recently, neither S or L had any more questions about firearms, their curiosity had been sated, for the time being

so, to sum up, my thoughts on kids and firearms are quite simple, if you teach kids that firearms are nothing more than a powerful, dangerous tool that needs to be respected, and you give them concrete evidence why they must be treated with respect and used responsibly, the “cool” factor goes away, to be replaced by respect and responsibility, if you treat firearms like “forbidden fruit”, they gain a mystique and cool factor that can be dangerous, after all, if Mom/Dad/Uncle/Aunt/Grandpa/Grandma don’t want me to play with this thing, it must be really cool, right, lets see if i can find where they hide it…
that can be a recipie for tragedy…

What are your thoughts on firearm safety and kids

Out of interest, what are their parents’ attitudes towards your lessons? I didn’t see that mentioned in your OP.

My thoughts are that guns should be taken seriously - they’re definately not toys.

I grew up around firearms. Oddly enough, my parents didn’t permit toy guns at our house, not even squirt guns. However, at about ten, Dad would begin to take us out to the farm periodically to plink cans off a fence. He taught us basically the same rules that you’ve taught your niece and nephew. None of us grew up to be serial killers. :smiley:

As far as being the grown up and dealing with kids and firearms goes, I make sure that the parents are aware that I have guns in the house, unloaded and under lock and key. Like the OP, anything bad that would happen when / if the two combined would be a failure of responsibility on my part. I don’t know if I could live with that.

My great nephew, at eleven, has asked me what it is like to shoot recently. I’m planning on asking his mom if she’ll allow me to take him to a firearm safety class for kids. He’s old enough and big enough to learn to handle a .22 under supervision and I’d like to make sure that he has the instruction to do so safely. His nine year old sister has absolutely no interest whatsoever.

The step-kids that I helped raise both are skilled with firearms. They grew up with them and learned respect early on. My step-grandson (11) got his first der last year. His six year old sister has been through the courses. No problems, they’re both supervised and responsible.

My sister knows I’m a responsible firearm owner, my BIL grew up around guns as well, they both have an open invitation to my rod and gun club, they have no problem with me teaching S and L about firearm safety, as they know the kids are being taught correctly, and that I stress safety and responsibility above all else

I’ve been shooting since I was 9 or 10 myself, (I’m 40 now) and in all that time, I’ve NEVER raised a firearm against another person, not defensively, or in anger (thank Og!) and I’ve never had a negligent discharge either ( I.E. the gun “just went off”)

Didn’t answer the poll.

I plan on owning firearms and if I ever have children I plan to teach them proper gun safety at an early age.

But I dislike it when people try to refer to guns as tools. I mean, they are tools, sure, but when you call them that you’re trying to play word games. Guns are weapons and I have no reservations about that.

I’m convinced one component of teaching gun safety is to have the kids help clean the guns after every range session, and make sure they do it right, every time. When it becomes like habit for them to be able to safely disassemble, clean, and reassemble the firearm, it helps ingrain into their mind how the gun really works, and what sort of care should be taken in handling them. It demystifies them - the gun really is viewed as a machine, not a magical device which all the people on TV and in their video games use. Also, the effort and work of cleaning them helps reduce the “cool”-ness factor, sometimes considerably.

It’s along the line of how a first car becomes suddenly less “cool” and “fun” once the kid has to start checking the tires, changing the oil, or replacing the clutch themselves.

I’m Canadian but was raised with guns in the house. Both my brother and I learned gun safety young and I earned extra money reloading ammo for my dad at around 10 or 11.

I think the way you’re teaching your niece and nephew is the best way overall to deal with it.

  1. If the kid isn’t old enough to drive or smoke, they shouldn’t be playing around with guns.

  2. Lots of parents focusing on gun handling skills. I’ve never heard a parent advocate talking with their kids about why they have a gun.

When I was eight or nine, my dad came home on leave from reserve duty with a Galil assault rifle. He cleared it - showing me what that means - then field stripped it, laid the pieces out on a towel in the living room, and for the next hour we both sat and cleaned it with rags and q-tips.

That was my first personal exposure to firearms.

  1. Nobody in here was advocating “playing around” with guns. There were talking about teaching gun safety and use.

  2. Since the age to buy tobacco in some (all?) States is 18, you in effect are saying “parents should never teach their kids gun safety while they’re kids.”

Perhaps instead kids should learn about gun safety and use from their friends, TV, and the Internet?

As a non gun owner I think you’re doing it the exact way it should be done. I had a friend who’s family owned guns and they pretty much did it the same way.

Our way is similar. We have four kids and they’ve all been exposed to guns all of their lives. We go more by the Jeff Cooper four rules now that the youngest is 8; toddlers get the don’t touch version.

We don’t allow toy guns in the house either, as guns are something to be respected and not played with. We didn’t even have any squirt guns until some came out for the pool that don’t resemble guns at all.

But if any kid wants to handle a gun, all they have to do is ask. We will retrieve it from the safe, safe it, and explain everything about it while letting them handle it. Mostly, they’re only interested in new guns because they’re new, not because they’re forbidden fruit. My 12-year-old has his hunting license and still doesn’t handle them by himself, although I don’t have to be on top of him while he’s shooting. If we were a little more rural, I’d be OK with him taking a .22 out to hunt rabbits, but not the younger two. It depends on the child’s level of responsibility.

We’ve worked hard to teach them that guns are a deadly tool to be respected, but that they themselves are not inherently evil or mysterious. It’s worked well.

For me, it’s a test of skill and an enjoyable hobby, I enjoy challenging myself to shoot the mythical “one hole group”, putting all the bullets through the same hole, it’s tougher than it sounds, I can almost do it with my Ruger 10/22 and Savage Mark II-G .22LR rifles from a bench rest at 50 yards, I surprised myself last week though, one of the other shooters at the rifle range had a heavy-barrel AR-15 (semi-auto version of the M-16) that he was sighting in, we struck up a conversation, and he offered to let me take a few shots with it, as I had never shot an AR platform before, on my first three shot group I put two through the same hole, and had one flyer about an inch high and left, he was quite impressed, and had me load up another three rounds, and I was able to put all three through the same hole! ( a different grouping this time, not the same group as my first three) on a platform I had never shot before…

Did I mention that the target was on the 100 yard target stand?..

Needless to say, I was quite happy with my results, considering that I mainly shoot at 50 yards…

I’m punching a hole the diameter of a pencil in a paper target 100 yards away, and then putting the next rounds through that same hole, that takes skill

My firearms are simply recreational sporting equipment, nothing more

I think the OP’s approach to gun safety with these young kids is commendable. They’ve been shown concrete examples of what the gun is capable of, and told exactly how to deal with finding an unattended gun.

Knowing that kids are not perfect at following “always/never” instructions (e.g. “never point a gun at anyone”), it’s probably best to wait until they are a bit older before letting them fire a loaded gun. My intro to firearms was at a boy scout summer camp when I was 11: we got to shoot .22 rifles at the range. The rifle was difficult to accidentally point anywhere but downrange, which was probably a good thing at that age. Firing handguns probably ought to wait until they’re a bit older, maybe 14-16 depending on their individual maturity/attentiveness, and assuming they’ve demonstrated the ability/awareness/conscientiousness to consistently point an unloaded one away from people.

I agree completely with the OP. As soon as a child expresses curiousity about guns, that curiousity should be matched with education. Or the curiousity will be matched with ignorance, which is dangerous.

Media exposes kids to guns and most of the information they get is wrong. Movies were people are blazing away and no one gets hit, or they get shot and just shrug it off like it’s no big deal and go on to save the day, etc.

Match curiousity with proper education.

So you’re saying that kids learn about automobile safety from their friends, TV, and the Internet?

In both cases, we’re talking about tools that should be understood and respected, but in both cases they’re particularly dangerous tools, which is why kids below a certain age shouldn’t be using them, even under adult supervision. Unfortunately, in most places in the U.S., automobiles are a virtual necessity for holding a job, dating, and other things that should be part of the normal teenager’s life. There are no parallel circumstances where use of firearms is similarly necessary. So it would seem to me that the minimum age for use of firearms should be at least as high as the minimum age for driving - and it would make sense for it to be higher.

I help teach 60+ young boys gun safety every year in the Boy Scouts. We have an annual shooting campout, with .22 rifles (largest allowed for Boys Scouts) and shotguns (no limitation, typically a spread of 20 gauge and 12 gauge). To be allowed to attend the campout, the boys get an annual firearms usage and safety lecture, followed by a quiz.

After the campout, I send each boy home with a firearms safety pamphlet to be reviewed with their parents. For those boys willing to put in the effort, they can pick up two merit badges as well that focus on the shooting sports.

My boys started shooting around 8 years old with a bolt action .22 rifle (Henry model - great started). I like the bolt action - it forces them to go slow and to think clearly about what they are doing.

Pretty much what Mach Tech & Una said.
I’m old so it was before seat belts & trigger guards & everyone must survive, at any cost, and, if there is death I can’t live anymore, became the norm.
Major differences:
All the many guns in the house were always loaded.
When I first started to notice & use weapons, no matter what was used, bow & arrow, home made blow pipes, BB gun, .22, knife, home made spear, if you wound or kill an animal, you go feel it and feel it’s terror & pain if wounded and then you dispatch it as quickly as you can. Scorpions, ants & grass hoppers and other insect pests did not count.

I twinge every time I look down the barrel of my semi-auto when disassembled for cleaning. That is how strong the , " Don’t point it at…" is ingrained in my subconscious.

Don’t have little kids visit and adults we know also know that all our guns are loaded. Other visitors are watched until they are trusted, not so much in weapon safety but in their intentions towards us. Not much of a problem, small house & we do not entertain.

Safety IMO, is education, constant awareness & habit. That can be done as a pilot, as a driver, as a user of weapons for any purpose. My problem is circular saws, man, they’ll be the death of me yet…

IMO, the biggest problem is not about how safe you make the young ones around you but how well you teach them how to recognize others and situations ( & their own behavior ) that are going wrong. Applies to all weapons and the most dangerous of them all, the automobile.


I’ve never had a gun in my hands and never intend to. For those that have guns and kids, how you handle them is your business.

I guess this is that part that I really don’t understand: why would they have questions, if you didn’t have guns?

I don’t remember having questions about firearms when I was growing up, and Lord knows I had questions about a lot of things. I don’t remember conversations about guns among my peers, as a child or as a teen. Nobody I knew was particularly interested in guns. Girls, dope, and occasionally booze, yes. Safety standards for exploring a cave, you betcha. But guns? Nah.

And unlike me, my friends’ kids are anywhere from early teens to out on their own. I haven’t seen any evidence of curiosity about guns among that cohort either.

Unlike with sex or recreational intoxicants, there’s nothing elemental that drives kids to be interested in guns as they’re growing up. It seems to me that the most likely driver of interest in or questions about guns is the presence of guns. If you don’t have 'em, they aren’t likely to need anyone to answer their questions about guns, because they aren’t likely to have questions about guns, because they aren’t likely to have more than the most casual interest in guns.