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Kids and Guns- Monsters and Good Clean Fun

February 27, 2012

I’ve heard children and firearms discussed three ways.

  1. We need to outlaw all guns for the sake of the children.. and knives and sticks and rocks while we’re at it.
  2. How do I secure my firearm when I have a child in the house?
  3. How do I teach my children to respect firearms?

Kathy Jackson has a great section on kids and guns at her website.  She covers child-proofing your guns as well as gun-proofing your child.  I can’t do it better, so give her a read at  Corneredcat Contents and read the section called Kids and Guns.  Kathy speaks from experience.  She had five boys under the age of 5 at one point in time.  Over time her children graduated from the Eddie Eagle program to the four rules of gun safety.  My experience was a little different.

The hard work of play  I don’t think it is too early to teach children about firearms, but don’t let them know you’re doing it.  Children naturally mix fantasy and mimicry in their play.  Little girls will test the temperature of the pretend food when they feed their dolls.  Little boys will stop to gas up their bicycles and make car sounds as they peddle away.  Here are  similar examples of stealth firearms education.

Every parent has been shot by their child’s finger long before the child got their hands on a toy gun.  The children are inviting you into their world, and being shot is a small price to pay for admission.  You can easily shape the rules of the game.

Is that your last shot, or is your finger still loaded?  Come here and let me check.” (as you look under their thumb) “Yep, it’s loaded.  Is my hand loaded?  Guess, I better put it in my holster.”

I often chose to die a monster’s death when shot, so I’d ask, “How did you know I was a monster before you shot me?  I looked like a monster?  Did you see my hands?  Was I carrying my treasure of cookies or did I have my monster claws out?”

(It is a win-win with either answer.)

“So you knew I was a dangerous monster because you saw my claws?” or

“You better holster your gun before you take the treasure cookies I dropped.”

Our young pioneer girl had to make sure her gun was loaded before she left her cabin to gather wood for her cooking fire.

“Did you see any wolves or mountain lions outside?”

“Not anymore.  They’re afraid of us now.”

Ah, the roots of situational awareness.


The dirty gun gathers no excitement  I put my guns away for several years as my children were growing up.  My children had a clue before I brought up the subject.

“I’m going out shooting again.  Would you like to see the guns when I come back?”

“We have guns in the house?”

“You want to see them?”

“Yeah!  Sure!”

The first time they saw a particular firearm was when it was taken apart and sitting in dirty pieces scattered across the table ready for cleaning.  They had to wipe off their hands after they touched the dirty gun.  Since they had a cleaning rag in their hand I asked then to wipe down the other pieces.

A shining gun in the hand conveys excitement.  A pile of dirty parts on the kitchen table means work.

I made sure to use each gun at the range, if only a few shots.  The burning curiosity slips away somewhere between clean, lubricate, and assemble and cycle.  My children were welcome to see and touch the pieces every time I came home from the range.  I answered their questions and talked about gun safety as we wiped and assembled.  For a while I cleaned my guns every time I came back from the range, and more often than strictly necessary.  Eventually I asked if they wanted to see them again, and they were not interested.  I cleaned the guns by myself for a while.   Eventually they asked to shoot them.

“Sure we can.  How about after homework and chores.  When are you free?”

Ho hum.  No hurry.  No charge of excitement.  The next time we cleaned the firearms we practiced safe gun handling with an airsoft pistol.  You can learn good habits at the kitchen table once your ears aren’t plugged with excitement.

Thoughtless Fantasy  I limited the computer-shooting/roll-playing video games at my house.  My children had enough of these games when they visited friends.  I didn’t find the games believable and asked my children if they could shoot that well at the range.  I don’t want my children learning to shoot without thinking.  Not ever.

Please tell me if you shaped your children’s attitude toward firearms when they were young.  It pays off when they’re older.


Appleseed photo by the great photographer Oleg Volk.  The lower photograph of Anne Morse is by Eric Andersen.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. tankergrunt permalink
    February 28, 2012 6:00 am

    “A shining gun in the hand conveys excitement. A pile of dirty parts on the kitchen table conveys work.

    I love your approach. Take the mystery out of it, help them understand that it’s simply a tool. A potentially lethal tool, but not to be feared or mysticized, but treated with respect like you would a chainsaw or a welding torch.

    I like your stealth education plan.


  2. wallflower permalink
    June 3, 2012 7:43 am

    Thank you for all the ideas. My husband and I are about to become first time gun owners. I have been looking for advice about teaching my little ones about guns beyond the basics of safety. Your post was very helpful. To answer your question, my children are very young and home schooled so I shape their attitudes about many things.


    • June 15, 2012 9:54 am

      Their games are a way to take gun-play seriously. Your children see good manners and good driving habits modeled long before they drive a car. We can model safe firearms habits before they shoot a gun.

      You there, finger off the trigger.



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