Children and guns is a tricky topic. One side of the argument believes that guns should be kept away from children at all costs, while others think that children should be taught gun safety and how to shoot from an early age.
We’re of the latter camp, and if you’re of a similar mind, you know it can be hard to find resources to help you learn how to teach your children to shoot. Here are some tips and tricks that we’ve learned over the years — with safety in mind — to help you prepare your kids to shoot safely.
Start With Gun Safety
Before your children ever pick up a gun, it’s important to teach them about gun safety. Reinforce four main rules:
- Never pick up a firearm without a parent or adult supervisor present.
- Treat a gun like it’s loaded at all times, even if you know it’s not.
- Never point any gun at someone — ever — whether it’s loaded or not.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot — or in more amusing, kid-friendly terms, keep your booger hook off the bang switch.
Start young, especially if you keep guns in the house. The trick is to reinforce that guns are not toys. Everyone should treat guns like the powerful weapons that they are, no matter how young or old they are.
You really don’t want to start your children with a .50 caliber rifle — unless your plan is to knock them across the range, that is. The first time you take them out to shoot, start small — a .22 caliber long rifle or even a BB gun just to get a feel for shooting before you start breaking out the larger caliber rifles or handguns.
This is a great opportunity to reinforce those rules you already started teaching them. Teach them to keep their barrel pointed downrange, and then reinforce the rules of the range. If you’ve got a kid-friendly range — many will let children shoot as long as they’re properly supervised and shooting only .22 caliber rifles — have your children talk to the range master to learn the rules. Sometimes having the regulations reinforced by someone other than a parent can help them stick.
Don’t Skip the Chores
Shooting isn’t all about putting holes in paper targets, and if your children are shooting with you, they should be part of cleaning up and maintaining the weapons after you’re done using them. Make sure you use proper safety equipment, including masks, gloves and eye protection. In addition, clean your guns in a well-ventilated area. Teach your kids good gun cleaning habits, and they’ll carry those behaviors with them throughout their lives.
Shooting should be a fun activity that you can do with your children, but gun safety should start early. Begin teaching your children how to be safe around guns before they’re ever allowed to pick one up. Teaching our children how to be safe around firearms, how to use them properly and how to respect them will make both the guns and the children safer.