December 20, 2019 8 min read

Growing up in a home where self-defense and personal freedom are top priorities is a wonderful gift parents can give their children. By providing your children with a safe and informed environment, you help them build confidence and self-assuredness that will stay with them throughout their lives. While the presence of guns in the home also carries with it obvious risks, gun safety rules can help ensure the safety of the home for the whole family. 

Educate the Entire Family

Educate the entire family on gun safety in an age-appropriate and maturity-appropriate manner. For babies and toddlers, the best decisions you can make for gun safety in your home is to ensure all firearms and ammunition are locked up.

As your children grow, you will have the opportunity to educate them on increasingly higher levels about the importance of gun safety. Make it an annual event, much like home fire drills. Even if your older children have heard it before, it’s always good for them to refresh their memories about gun safety. There are two factors of primary importance to remember during your family safety seminars:

  1. Every member of the household understands whatnotto do with firearms.
  2. Every member of the household is educated and informed enough to keep them from feeling over-confident in their firearms handling, bored in their lack of knowledge, or incapable of defending themselves in the way they desire.

It’s about cultivating an atmosphere of capability, common sense, curiosity, and respect. 

The Basics of Safe Gun Handling

The Basics of Safe Gun Handling

It’s up to you to decide at what age and how deeply you want your children to dive into the world of firearms. However, everyone in the family needs to know the basics. If they’re old enough to shoot a gun by accident, they need to know the basic rules of firearm handling

1. Know how the firearm operates. 

Explain to your children how the gun works, even if they aren’t old enough to use it. Tell them how the bullets are loaded into the magazine and how a gun fires. This can help them understand the relevance of other gun safety rules.

2. Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

Tell your kids always to keep guns pointed in a safe direction. That way, if it were to fire by accident, it would not result in injury. 

3. Never assume a gun is unloaded.

When handling a firearm, children should be taught to never assume that a gun is unloaded. This helps to remind them to always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Teach children how to open the action and look into the chamber or open and remove and store the magazine after picking up a gun. Helping them to take every precaution is how you can keep them safe. 

4. Keep your finger off the trigger.

Also known as “trigger discipline,” teach your children how to rest their finger along the side of the gun or outside of the trigger guard. Tell them this is important to practice 100% of the time, even if they think they are handling an unloaded gun. 

Store the Firearms in a Secure Location

While educating your children can go a long way, one of the most important things you can do to keep your children safe is to store your firearms in a safe location. 

Remember to store unloaded firearms in a gun safe, storage case, gun vault, or locked cabinet. Keep them away from prying or overly curious hands by making them completely inaccessible to children. 

Handgun in Case With Cable Lock

Putting Your Firearms Away Safely

It isn’t enough to have a gun safe or a storage case that locks. It’s also important to educate yourself and anyone else on the proper procedures for storing guns. 

1. Always unload a firearm before bringing it home.

Firearms should be completely unloaded before they’re even brought back into the house for storage. Firearms should never be loaded in the house unless it is an emergency.

2. Clean and store your sports firearms immediately after returning home from an excursion.

This is an important habit to get into, as it eliminates time the gun sits unguarded and out in the open. It also keeps your guns in working order, which can help prevent your gun from malfunctioning from dirt and debris build-up when you’re ready to use it. 

cleaning a rifle

3. Store your firearms out of the reach of children.

Invest in a sturdy, fireproof gun cabinet or safe to keep guns out of the hands of children. Keep the keys with you at all times, and don’t share the codes of digital safes. For small children, keep your smaller gun safes in a high location where they cannot reach or stand on a chair to reach them.

4. Keep guns unloaded when you store them.

Many jurisdictions require that all stored guns must be kept unloaded. This also minimizes the chances of a child, guest, or intruder being able to shoot anyone if they manage to access your guns. 

5. Store ammunition in a locked location, separate from the guns.

Even if you live in an area where guns and ammunition do not need to be stored separately, this is a habit that can help save lives. If your child does get access to your weapons, if the ammunition is separate, they will be unable to fire the gun.

6. Double-check your firearms each time you remove them from storage.

Each time you remove a gun from storage, re-check to make sure it is completely unloaded and functioning correctly. Tragedies have occurred after family members borrow a gun, unbeknownst to the owner, and then return it without fully unloading it. 

Make the Rules Clear

Of course, kids can be creative and sneaky, as well as naturally curious about guns, so it’s important to reinforce the rules of the house. While your kids may know how to handle a gun safely, they also have to understand what you expect of any friends or visitors to the home. 

Teach kids the rules

Let your children know that if they or any friends find a gun in the house, they are to leave it alone and not touch it. Be very clear with them about how gun accidents and casualties occur. Even if a gun looks like a toy, don’t touch it. Tell them to find you or another adult if they come across any firearm or weapon in the house. Remind them not to go hunting or snooping for guns in the house. 

Offer Alternative Excitement

Boredom is an incredible motivator for children to go exploring for interesting items in the home. To keep your kids and their friends out of trouble and away from guns, try to have alternative sources of fun and excitement around the house. This can be as simple as having plenty of outdoor activities to choose from, or perhaps you keep a full shelf of card and board games. Alternative sources of fun go a long way toward keeping kids out of trouble. 

Firearms and Home Security

The concept of proportionality is crucial to maintaining a safe home. This means that your gun and firearm ownership should be proportionate to your local crime rates and your sporting or hunting usage. While it’s natural to want guns to protect yourself, go to the shooting range, and hunt for healthy meat, having many different firearms can make it challenging to keep track of each one.

To put the concept of proportionality into practice, ask yourself if your safety concerns are proportional to the local crime rates. Realistically, would another gun in the house be a protective measure or a hazard? 

gun on a wooden table

Keep Household and Area Risk Factors in Mind

If risk factors like mental illness exist in your household or immediate neighborhood, take extra precautionary measures. Keep weapons out of the hands of those who could, even unintentionally, inflict harm. 

Be proactive in protecting your own family’s mental health. If you exhibit or a family member exhibits signs or symptoms of anxiety, depression, or agitation, seek mental health guidance and advice. Being proactive when it comes to mental health can help keep you, your family, and your community safe.

Discuss the Media’s Portrayal of Firearms

We live in a day and age where firearm use is everywhere in entertainment and the media. Your children are probably exposed to films, TV shows, and video games where firearm use seems completely normal. 

Watching tv and using remote control

Sit your children down and have a conversation about the prevalence of gun violence in the media. Ask them about what they think of when they see guns. Guide the discussion and dig into what your family values are. Talk about the importance of protecting your family, personal responsibility, compassion, and safety, and how that might look very different from the glorification of everyday gun use seen in entertainment. 

Children need to understand that using a gun in real life carries real-life consequences. A bullet fired at a zombie on TV may hit its target, but, in real life, that bullet may miss a target and travel to someone standing in the background. Firing a gun can cause physical harm and death. Be kind yet explicit about the consequences of using a firearm in these conversations.

Take Your Children to the Shooting Range 

The more familiar your children are with firearm usage, the better. Take them to a shooting range or out hunting with you regularly. Teach them how to hold, load, unload, fire, and safely carry a gun

Remember, it’s crucial to balance respect and fun. While handling a gun is a very serious matter, let your children have fun with learning a new skill. Congratulate them on their efforts and help them hone their aim. 

Take your kids to the range

Building a family culture of safety and common sense doesn’t have to be stone-faced and serious. Sometimes, some lessons are just as easily learned through good memories and a sense of humor as they are through strict safety rules. 

Family Gun Safety Education

Gun safety is an on-going educational process. If you plan on storing guns in the house, encourage your spouse and your children to join you on gun safety education courses. Pursue certifications as a family. 

For instance, the NRA offers courses for firearm handlers at every level. Whether you want your child to take a basic gun handling course or you want to become an NRA-certified coach, there is an option that can help you become a more informed gun owner. 

Teach Them About Hunting and the Environment

One often-overlooked side of gun and firearm safety is the responsibility that every citizen bears toward the environment. Hunters play a crucial role in caring for their local area and regulating animal population levels. Additionally, hunting has played a critical role in human history and survival. Gun ownership isn’t just about keeping intruders out of the house; it’s about a much broader human legacy. 

Father and son sitting in a bushes and hunting down an animal

Teach your children to respect the environment, human history, and human life by getting them well-acquainted with your local area. Talk about environmental issues, such as the extinction of major predators and why human hunters are so critical in managing deer populations. Take them to meet the local game commissioner so they can ask all the questions they would like. 

To help them develop a sense of respect and appreciation for hunting and weapons, consider taking them to your local natural history museums. Show them the different types of weapons and talk about how they were used. Help them explore the development of human weaponry in a hands-on fashion. The more they know and appreciate the power of human weaponry, the better. 

Encourage them to take action on local social issues. Tell them how poverty, drug use, and homelessness are often linked to higher crime rates. Lead by example and volunteer at the homeless shelter and donate extra venison to soup kitchens or shelters that need it. Show your children that ethics and personal responsibility isn’t just about how you store your guns; it’s about how you treat your neighbor. 

Final Thoughts

It’s a privilege and an honor to bear arms and protect one’s family. However, protecting one’s family extends far beyond owning a firearm. It includes family discussion, gun safety rules, personal responsibility, and fostering your family’s moral compass. 

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