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How We’re Taught About Guns – Part 3

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Article first appeared at Ammo Land.

USA –  -(Ammoland.com)- In Part 1, we discussed the entertainment industry’s hypocrisy, claiming that its violent productions don’t influence behavior while using the same media to influence viewers against gun ownership.

Part 2 reviewed a blatant example that aired 2 years ago, Young Guns, that purported to show that children cannot reliably grasp the danger of playing with real-seeming guns.  Of course, it was also a poor demonstration of how to teach kids.

The hysteria over guns in the home is driven by anti-gun activists whose goals are furthered the more people fear.  The truth is far different.  The number of accidental shooting deaths of children, whether considered up to age 10 or age 15, are very few (less than 50 or just over 100, respectively), especially considering the 300 million plus firearms in 60-70 million households across the United States.

Each death is a terrible tragedy, but most of those accidents occur at the hands of males with criminal records and every one could be prevented, unlike most intentional homicides and suicides.  (Keeping your children away from criminals is a good idea for many reasons.)

We do that by teaching them what to do about a fire and how to swim.  Even though automobile accidents kill nearly 60 times as many people as do gun accidents, we don’t lock up car keys (or cars) one place and fuel separately.  We establish over time that they are not to misuse the accessibility of our vehicles without education and permission—and that works.

Responsible, gun-safe young people are raised the same way—with good parenting, consistently teaching and role modeling safe, healthy behaviors.  “Consistently” here means providing the right messages and being persistent throughout childhood in delivering those messages.

Earlier this year, there were further joint efforts by television stations, law enforcement and schools to understand what can better promote safe behavior by children who encounter guns unsupervised.  They should have received more attention, because they were more realistic situations than Young Guns staged in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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In Waterloo, Iowa, among 9 children ages 3 to 7, things started much as in St. Petersburg.  With no prior instruction, all the kids played with the guns they found.  Then the police officer entered, took the guns, and talked with the children about the right things to do when they find a firearm.

On repeating the exercise, the child who first found it “backs away from it and runs to tell his mom.”  Authoritative instruction matters most when given at a ‘teachable moment’, when children are in the midst of relevant activity (not days before, like in Young Guns).

A Fairway, Kansas station reported that of 8 children from pre-K through kindergarten, six almost immediately played with the gun, pointing it heedlessly at anyone and pulling the trigger.  As this police officer said, “Everything is a toy in their world. Unless we educate them and let them know sometimes it’s not.”  The point here is that, untutored, kids can show no more than natural, age-appropriate behaviors.  Expecting self-restraint by 5 year olds alone in a room with something tempting is completely unrealistic.

But as reported, there were “two children who didn’t touch the weapon. . .the ones whose families have guns in their homes and had already talked to them about how dangerous they are.”    In other words, responsible gun owners raise responsible children by teaching them the rules and setting clear expectations as they grow up.  These 6-years-olds, from families comfortable and careful with guns, respected them.

Cambria County, Pennsylvania, is a rural school district in which an estimated 80% of homeowners own firearms.  It has been providing firearm safety education, called GunStop, to kindergarten and 3rd grade students for the past 20 years.  Videos used include NRA’sEddie Eagle program (“Stop! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Find an adult.”) and McGruff the Crime Dog (crime awareness).

The program teaches children about conflict resolution as well as what to do when encountering a firearm on their own.  Parents may choose for their children to participate or not, as well as to participate themselves with their children.

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Gun Safety for Kids & Toddlers by Sarah Carling is a real-life description of one mother’s thinking about how to teach her children, ideas which are realized in Cambria County’s curriculum.  There are also unforeseen long term benefits for youth experience with firearms.  According to a Department of Justice-funded study (page 18), “boys who own legal firearms. . . have much lower rates of delinquency and drug use and are even slightly less delinquent than non-owners of guns.”

Child development is not just about avoiding bad outcomes, but is also for them to discover and try new things and expand their limits. Learning marksmanship can be an excellent way for young people to develop patience, self-discipline, focus and coordination.  It’s an activity with no gender dominance, in which one can compete with others or just with oneself.

NSSF’s Project ChildSafe video lays it all out.  It’s narrated by Julie Golob, a mother who knows guns as a record-setting national and international shooting champion.  Teach them the Eddie Eagle rules from the beginning.  As they become old enough, “demystify” firearms by demonstrating yours and set “an example with your own safe handling and proper storage of guns”.  Teach them the NRA Gun Safety Rules of responsible gun handling, being sure they always see you invariably following them yourself.  Then take them shooting.

Kids learn by example and by instruction, and always require repetition.  This occurs naturally regarding firearms in families who own and use guns, but not at all in those who avoid or reject them.   Gun-savvy parents who handle firearms responsibly naturally beget offspring who do too.

Keeping children ignorant about guns just increases their likelihood of doing the wrong thing and risking death when (not, in our society, if) they encounter firearms.  As I’ve said before:  Teach safety, not ignorance
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