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Teach Your Children Well
Happy holidays, everyone!
This month, after two years of wanting to go and never getting the babysitting thing coordinated so I could, I finally attended Wanenmacher’s – the “World’s Largest Gun Show” – in Tulsa. Can I just say WOW! 448,000 square feet of (almost) nothing but guns, ammo, knives, and weapon accessories. My shooting buddy and I arrived at 10am on Saturday, November 10th, stayed four hours, and didn’t even begin to take it all in. It was the most mind-boggling thing I’d ever seen. Guns… everywhere. Guns for sale at the booths, guns for sale as advertised on signs that people were wearing as they walked around, guns just purchased and slung over a shoulder, guns on their way in the door being checked and zip-tied by security, guns on their way out the door also being checked by security… It was odd and exhilarating. That many guns, out and about, in the hands of strangers, and I didn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable. From what I saw, even in the crowds people were careful not to sweep each other as they handled and toted their guns, which is saying something because quarters were certainly close. Surprisingly, people seemed laid back and calm, though we’d been expecting a bit of madness following Tuesday’s election. Old guys, young guys, old gals, young gals, couples, parents, children of every age… and most of them significantly less scary than the typical sampling from the State Fair. Best moment of the day? Securing my position as Best Shooting Buddy of the Year by scoring the elusive VZ.58 magazines my counterpart wanted. Second best moment? Seeing a Daddy carrying his adorable infant in his arms while his friend pushed an AR-15 around in the stroller. Wish I’d been quicker with my phone camera! Ah, well. We had a great time!
Sigh. The election. Well, the world will keep turning, though those of us interested in preserving our Second Amendment rights will need to pay close attention to what is happening in the political arena and make sure our voices are heard. We also need to be preparing our children to stand up for their own 2A rights by teaching them to respect the Constitution and understand that it is not a document which should be changed at the whim of current social and political sensibilities, but rather the blueprint for a nation meant to be different from all of those which had come before, free from government tyranny and where individual and collective freedom is maximized and revered. Our Second Amendment rights were believed to be, and of course still are, essential to ensuring freedom from tyranny. We’re falling away as a nation from the model our forefathers laid out for us, however, and it is our responsibility as parents, friends, and mentors to correctly inform the children of this country on matters of political theory. Pay attention to what your children are being taught in school in civics-type studies. Mine have been told that “the President is the leader of the country,” and I have had the opportunity to inform them that, no, our President is a public servant elected by consent of the people to temporarily serve as (1) the head of state, (2) the leader of the executive branch of our government (further explaining that there are three branches meant to keep one another in check), and (3) the commander-in-chief of our nation’s armed forces, but definitely not as the “leader of the country.” It may seem a question of semantics, but the distinction is an important one. Presidents are made and unmade through our political processes. Our children must never get comfortable with the idea that the American people are subject to one individual’s leadership. We need children who can think critically, have solid reasons for the choices they make concerning what to believe and how to act, and keep a solid grasp on what our nation is meant to stand for, and we need those same children to embrace the shooting sports and the notion that they must retain the right to defend themselves with lethal force when necessary. It sounds melodramatic, perhaps, but though the future of the gun rights Americans now enjoy depends on us for now, it will be our children’s birthright to protect in the future. The more of them who are on the right side of gun control, the more secure we’ll all be.
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Girl, 12, Defends Herself with Mom's Gun
Last month, twelve-year-old Kendra St. Clair was home alone when a man she did not know broke into her residence. At her mother’s instruction, she took a .40 Glock into a closet, then called 9-1-1. When the man attempted to open the door behind which Kendra hid, Kendra fired the first shot of her life through the door and into the man’s chest, causing him to flee the house. He was caught and charged with burglary, and Kendra was shaken but physically unharmed. (read the article)
As a mother, this story struck me hard. The notion of a child finding herself in this situation is frightening, but there is encouragement as well. Kendra did everything right. She didn’t answer the door when the man first approached. She immediately sought help – first from her mother and then from 9-1-1 – and took steps to avoid confrontation while simultaneously preparing to defend herself. When push came to shove, she took decisive action that very likely saved her life. I haven’t spoken with a single person about this, liberal or conservative, who doesn’t believe the girl is a hero who did the right thing.
Fortunately, Kendra lives in Oklahoma where “castle doctrine” is law and recognizes her right to absolute safety in her home and allows her to use lethal force to protect herself if her home in invaded. She is immune from prosecution for injuring or even killing a home invader. There are no laws requiring firearms owners to use locks on their firearms or make them otherwise inaccessible to children. This is not the case everywhere in the United States. Oklahomans should be proud of their gun rights and jealously guard them against politicians who would seek to impose gun control laws that would have left Kendra St. Clair at the mercy of the man who invaded her home.
None of us needs to hear another political rant between now and Tuesday when we head to the polls, but I do ask you to look closely at the people for whom you will be asked to cast a vote both in local and national arenas. Does your candidate of choice support gun control, or does she/he instead respect the Second Amendment right of the people to keep and bear arms and actively endorse legislation that strengthens that right? There are those who believe the Constitution and particularly the Second Amendment need to be reinterpreted and redefined, and who seek to severely restrict or even eradicate private gun ownership and create a State in which only law enforcement and the military have firearms. But the Constitution means nothing if we begin to tear it apart when we decide we don’t like certain bits of it, that it isn’t progressive enough for our modern, “enlightened” sensibilities, and that the men who created this country had no idea what they were doing when they decided that power should rest firmly in the hands of the people rather than with the government which was created to serve them.
Single-issue voters could do a lot worse than voting for candidates simply because they strongly support the Second Amendment, but all of us who value our gun rights must be certain that we understand where each candidate stands on this issue and allow that to weigh very heavily in our decisions on election day. We cannot with integrity praise the actions that Kendra St. Clair took to defend herself but then turn around and elect politicians who want to create laws that would have made it difficult or impossible for her to do what she did. It’s one or the other, and if you know a mother or father who doesn’t support gun rights, I encourage you to open a discussion with her or him on the topic. You may not change an opinion in time for this election day, but you could plant a seed that might begin the process of change.
Be sure to talk about Kendra’s story with your children. Talk about how important it is not to answer the door unless the person on the other side of it is someone whom you and they know and who has your permission to be in your house. Talk about the phone calls Kendra made, how she hid quietly, and how she used a gun in self-defense. Show them how to call 9-1-1 and teach them what to say. Talk about how Kendra stayed calm in spite of being frightened and took control of what was happening to her. If you haven’t started teaching the children in your life about gun safety, please start now. If they have the safety rules down pat, take the next step and start teaching them to shoot. OPD is more than happy to help you guide your children into a safe and responsible relationship with firearms every step of the way. For more information, please visit our youth academy website.
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The girls were home alone when an unexpected noise made them look up. Coming through the unlocked back patio door was a man they did not recognize. While the human girl stood up, shocked, the girl with four legs sprang toward the intruder with such ferocity that the man retreated the way he had come, running through the backyards of the adjacent condominiums in an attempt to get away. He did, but not entirely cleanly: the dog proudly carried a piece of the man’s denim pants in her teeth when she returned to her own condo.
That was well over twenty years ago. Today, the dog has long since passed on and the human girl is a woman who has daughters of her own. In spite of living more than a thousand miles apart for most of our friendship, she has been one of my closest friends since shortly after the intruder entered her home those many years ago, but a visit with her this summer indicated that we are oceans apart on our approaches to safety and security. My friend knew I had, over recent years, become interested in recreational shooting and in firearms for protection, but was astonished by the degree to which I am concerned with protecting myself and my children from potential harm. After all, I’d entered her home as a guest with what she seemed to consider an arsenal. The kubotan on my keys. The tactical pen on my shirt. A portable gun safe containing guns, loaded back up magazines, and a flashlight. And beyond that, we’d discussed the measures I’d taken in terms of security with my own home half a continent away. “You must be either paranoid or very afraid,” she suggested.
Well, when she listed everything off like that, I suppose it did sound that way. Three years ago when I made a cross-country trip similar to the one in which I happened to be in the middle of when our conversation occurred, I hadn’t had any of those tools with me and lived in a house that was largely unsecured from potential outside threats. It’s certainly different now, and the about-face must have been surprising. As I sat in her living room and listened to my friend grow increasingly agitated about the choices I have made in personal protection, I was thankful for my failure to mention the container of Fox Labs pepper spray in my purse on her kitchen table.
She recounted the story I’ve told you above about the intruder when she was a teen, and then seemed to assume an air of superiority as she told me that, in spite of that incident, she didn’t feel the need to carry any of the weapons that I routinely have on my person or secure her home in any of the ways that I do. She is unafraid, she insisted. “No,” I thought, but couldn’t manage to say, “you are oblivious.”
I do not walk around in perpetual fear. I do not cower behind the walls and doors of my home. I am neither afraid nor paranoid. Rather, I am aware that there is potential danger out there in the world, that women are routinely made targets by predators and that being oblivious to that danger increases the likelihood that one will be targeted. The danger is real, not imagined, and the lack of it in an immediately threatening sense does nothing to diminish its reality. Why not do what I can to anticipate it and prepare for defense? Why gamble on odds that “nothing bad is likely to happen” when I can take steps to make it happening less likely and increase my odds of survival if it does?
The difference between us is not that I love my life and my children more than my friend does. Of course that isn’t it. She would defend her children with everything she has should they be threatened, exactly the way I or any loving mother would. The difference is that I’ve armed myself with sharper teeth and claws than nature saw fit to give me, and those instruments increase the odds in my favor. A man I know is fond of saying that however slim the odds are, if it happens to you it’s 100-percent and you have to deal with it. So, no, I won’t drive across the country with out-of-state tags that mark me as a visitor without weapons at my disposal. I will enter a theme park where guns are prohibited with a key chain kubotan and a tactical pen handy with which I could fight back against an aggressor. I will remind my children to look around as we enjoy our vacation and take in the scenery, but also to be aware of their surroundings from a tactical perspective and look for anything unusual or threatening.
Paranoia involves delusions. Fear is a response to a perceived threat. I experience neither in my day to day life. I am merely aware of the potential for a threats to exist and choose to take precautions to help guard against them, and that is something entirely different from paranoia or fear. It is also markedly different from denial or being oblivious. Think of it like you would taking out an insurance policy. I am neither paranoid nor fearful that, at any moment, my home will be hit by an Oklahoma hail storm, but I know it happens occasionally and have insurance in case it happens to my house. The knowledge that I could be hit or killed in a car accident doesn’t stop me from enjoying driving, but it does inspire me to wear my seatbelt and to carry automobile insurance. The insurance policies and seat belt don’t prevent danger from striking, but they exist to help me should a problem arise. So, too, with the choice to arm oneself with a kubotan, tactical pen, pepper spray, firearm, locked doors, alarm system, perimeter lighting, barking dogs, or other such things. The existence of these does not eliminate a potential threat, but they can help mitigate one should it present itself.
My heart was heavy as we parted company without my having convinced her to look again at her approach to personal security. I hope neither of us ever has occasion to find out how effective our respective senses of security are.
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This summer brought with it a wonderful trip to the southeastern United States with my children, and that trip brought a poignant reminder about awareness and preparation.
My three little ones and I were visiting friends in western North Carolina and spending a sunny afternoon on their boat at beautiful Lake James. The day had been filled with swimming, water skiing, tubing, lunching, laughing and good spirits all around, and we were beginning to wind down as we took three of the children – Missy Moo, Legolas, and my friend’s daughter M-Bear – for a ride on the four-person, red blood cell-shaped raft.
M-Bear had fallen off on the previous spin around the lake and we circled back in the boat to pick her up where she floated in the water, arm raised over her head to make herself seen, so she could climb back onto the raft. As she did so and the boat drifted to take up slack in the tow line, a man on a SeaDoo biked over toward us. I wondered if my friends knew who the man was and all of the adults on our boat were trying to ascertain the same thing, even as the biker grew closer. He circled around us and around the kids behind us on the raft, and when we realized that he was a stranger, we tried to wave him off. He waved back, however, and though we could tell that he was talking with the children, we could not make out what he was saying. He continued to slowly circle the boat.
My friend suggested to her husband that we make our way back to our launch with haste to get away from “SeaDoo”, so her husband got the “thumbs up” from the three little ones on the raft and we took off, expecting SeaDoo to wander back to the place from which he’d come.
Instead, he started running his wet bike at an angle almost but not quite parallel to the boat, coming slightly toward us. In what seemed like an eternity of time but was actually mere seconds, SeaDoo suddenly wore an expression of panic on his face and tried to swerve his wet bike away from us when he realized he’d gotten too close, but he fell off the bike instead and it skidded into our motor and across our tow line.
There’s more to the end of the story, but I’ll spare you further details except to say that the children were – though alarmed – unharmed, and the people on our boat – though alarmed – were also unharmed. It was immediately evident that SeaDoo was completely inebriated but he, too, was unharmed. He left the lake as we’d suggested and was soon identified by the authorities, resulting in a satisfactory legal outcome.
What struck me that day and has stayed with me every day since was how thoroughly unprepared the other adults on the boat and I were to act when this incident occurred. All of us knew SeaDoo was too close to our boat and the raft. All of us knew that he had no business talking to the children or engaging our party in any way. All of us suspected something was “off” about the man, though our first suspicion was not, oddly, that he was drunk. All of us wanted him away from our children. And none of us said anything to him until after the accident.
Why was that? I can tell you that I was speechless in my incredulity, though my being speechless is a rare thing. I also failed to act. Was I unaware that something could go wrong? No, I’ve been on lakes, boats, and wet bikes my entire life and know that wet bikes and boats don’t mix. Am I not protective enough? It certainly isn’t that, either.
I was simply unprepared when something unexpected happened. I think on some level I believed that the man meant no harm (and he didn’t, as it turns out, though he was crippled by alcohol and stupidity) and that if we just got away from him nothing bad would happen. As fortune would have it, I can sit here and beat myself up for not having been more proactive without also having to suffer the grief of knowing that my inaction resulted in the injury of one of my children or my friend’s child, but it could all too easily have gone the other way. I can look back and see what went wrong and what we should have done about it from the moment the situation began and I can tell myself that next time I’ll come at the offending wet bike from the get-go like a maelstrom in defense of my babies as I order them hauled out of the water to the safety of our boat immediately.
But will I?
Diligence. We have to be diligent as we go about our lives. We have to be aware. We have to prepare our minds not to accept that things will probably turn out okay when a situation gets dicey, but rather act quickly and decisively in order to avoid tragedy. We do not have to be paranoid, always looking for trouble when it isn’t there, but we do need to know what is going on around us, not get sucked into that false bubble of safety that we assume surrounds us as we go about our lives, and be ready to take control of ourselves and, in some cases, the people around us to ensure that if something does go wrong we don’t have to look back and wonder what we might have done differently or, in some cases, not be able to look back at all.
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When Youth Defend Themselves
Cherise is still on vacation so I'm writing the Mom's Corner this month as I wanted to address the behavior of a 14 year old boy in Phoenix, Arizona.
It seems this young man was home on a Saturday afternoon babysitting his three younger siblings (8, 12 and 12) when the doorbell rang. He looked out the door to see a woman he did not recognize so he did not answer the door. Within minutes he heard sounds which he believed were that of someone trying to break in the house...
And so he gathered his three siblings, took them upstairs and barricaded them in a bedroom, and waited at the top of the stairs with a handgun he had retrieved from his parents' bedroom. Sure enough, a man broke down the front door, and when the stranger pointed a gun at him, the young man shot him. The attacker didn't even have time to fire off a shot. (Read full article)
To be sure, the main goal at Safe Kids U is to teach youth to be safe with and around firearms. However, I have made it clear from the beginning that the youth academy will provide defensive training for those youth whose parents choose for them to have the training. I write about this in my initial post about the youth academy, and in that post I link several articles from around the country about youth using a firearm to defend themselves or a family member. This is a legitimate training concern, especially for those parents who understand their child my find herself face to face with an intruder, and in their absence the need to save her own life.
The above story is further proof. What would have happened to those four children had the oldest boy not been prepared? Obviously he had enough training to know what to do, there was not chaos (there wasn't time), there was clear thinking and life saving by a 14 year old boy. Some could reason that, well, perhaps if they just hid in the bedroom the intruder would have gone away. Let me ask all the parents out there this one question, how would you respond if someone kicked in your front door and pointed a gun at your child? Discussion? Waiting it out? Call 911? The young man had just enough time to get his siblings upstairs safely into a room and be on target at the front door as a stranger with a gun came through. There was only one appropriate response and that 14 year old made it.
We're still getting the youth academy off the ground, but once all is in place there will be safety training for all ages, and defensive training with a firearm for those youth whose parents choose to have it. After all, a parent should have that right to defensively train their child for such a situation as the 14 year old boy faced.
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Reminders and Reinforcements
My son, whom I shall call Legolas (he’s got that sort of elven look about him and wants badly to gain proficiency in archery), recently attended an overnight Cub Scout camp with his father. During the trip, he had the pleasure of shooting a BB gun. Prior to that, his experience with guns was limited to toy and water guns and his Airsoft pistol as he doesn’t care for the noise generated by real firearms. But although good gun safety protocol per the Four Cardinal Rules is required at home when he uses his toys (as has been discussed here before) and the need for adherence to them is reinforced regularly, one never knows what a child will remember when one isn’t there to do the reminding.
At camp, his father kindly recorded and sent to my phone footage of Legolas as he fired a round from the BB gun. To this proud mother’s complete delight, my little boy kept his finger in register as he got into position and aimed, slowly put his finger on the trigger to take his shot, then returned his finger to the frame of the gun afterward in order to lay it down, all without his mother there reminding him! In fact, the footage records no one reminding him to mind his finger at all. Does it get better than that, ladies?
This small little incident reminded me of the need to be consistent with my children and reinforce the things that I want them to learn. If our children develop good habits and behaviors with our assistance when they are with us, they are far more likely to be successful in maintaining those learned behaviors when they are not. If this is true for making their beds in the morning – and I am happy to report tremendous success being gained in that department, FINALLY, this summer – it’s at least doubly so for their handling of firearms, toy or real, due to the potential for harm if care is not taken. Train yourself, teach your children, and reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.
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Firearms and Your Young Child
I didn’t grow up with guns. To the best of my knowledge, the only guns of any type which we had in our home when I was a kid were the toy cowboy guns my brothers played with. My husband had some long guns that we stored unloaded (there wasn’t even any ammunition in our house or garage) on a shelf twelve feet off of the ground, and I never worried about our then-very-small children gaining access to them because I could barely reach them myself using our little indoor ladder.
How to properly secure any firearm never occurred to me until I became interested in shooting. Once I discovered a fondness for recreational shooting, I took Girls Day Out with Tammy and started thinking about a handgun as not just a hobby but as a personal defense tool. Except… that I had three young children in my home all of the time and any number of other people’s children there on occasion, and I couldn’t risk having one of them injured by any firearm, much less one that I had brought into the house deliberately. I knew a personal defense firearm needed to be kept close to me and loaded but had a lot of questions about how to accomplish that while keeping my babies safe from the dangers that a loaded gun present.
Where do I store a defense firearm and keep it out my children’s reach while having it readily accessible? What types of locks are available, reliable, and easy to use? Should I tell the children that I have a gun in the house, or even that I have one at all? If so, should I tell them where it is? What about recreational firearms? Is storage for those items different? But most importantly, how do I keep my children from becoming victims of their own curiosity?
At the time, OPD had not begun developing Safe Kids U and classes directed at moms and kids, so I consulted Tammy and read books and magazine articles by firearms and security experts and perused the internet in search of information and tools that would provide the best in protection for my children along with easy access to my weapons in a crisis. As with many things gun-related, there’s certainly a lot of bad advice to be found, but there are also excellent options that met my criteria and allow me to be 100% confident having firearms in my home both for recreation and defense. I’ve taken material precautions and am also teaching my children the things they know in order to stay safe when they aren’t with me.
I’d like to share this information with you! If there are children in your life whom you help care for, if you have children in your own home, or even if you have children visit, there’s something in our new class, Firearms and Your Young Child: Protection at Home and Away, for you! Please join me for the class on Monday, April 23rd. The class will be held in Moore, the room will open for dinner at 5 pm, class goes from 6 – 9 pm. Learn how you can protect those children at home and teach them to protect themselves when they aren’t. I hope to see you there!
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Teaching Children Gun Safety
It was my pleasure to speak about children and firearms to an enthusiastic group of women at the Girls Day Out class on February 25th. Among these ladies were a number of mothers and one of my favorite questions that was asked was how I feel about toy guns. I had to grin because in this day and age when children are forced to use sporks and sporks alone in the school cafeteria (let me just tell you: watching kindergartners try to muscle off small pieces of chicken-fried steak at lunch today with sporks was entertaining at least, and not just a little sad), which I can only imagine is because plastic knives and forks evidently present an unacceptable danger, my attitude about toys guns certainly isn’t favored by modern, “enlightened” parents or many school officials. Toy guns are dangerous! They teach children that violence is okay! Down with guns! They are all evil and they must be destroyed!
Um… except that generations of children grew up playing Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians with toy guns and didn’t grow up to be disaffected violent offenders. A lot of those children had .22 rifles of their own and were turned loose with them to rid the garden of rabbits before they could even SPELL “rabbit.” Nevermind that kids love guns, and forbidden fruit is the most appealing thing on the tree. Take the toy guns away from a child who wants them and she will make new ones out of whatever she’s got handy, be it her forefingers and thumbs, sticks she finds in the yard, Twizzlers, or slices of bread. Turn your head and your preschooler will have taken the empty bathroom tissue roll off the holder and, aiming it menacingly at his sister, have ordered her to drop the stolen Legos or else. Got a creative kid? Watch as he takes a piece of cardstock and draws a gun, then cuts it out with scissors. Play-Doh absolutely begs to be molded into the shape of a gun. I know. I’ve heard it calling for just that from inside the little pot myself.
While watching video several years back concerning impoverished communities in Africa, I saw footage of two very young children sitting outside of their hut. No adults were visible in the shot. The eldest of the two was disinterestedly watching the younger who couldn’t have been more than two years old cut some vegetable or another to pieces with a machete. Yes, that’s right. A machete. A machete that was nearly as big as this tiny kid. And no one was bothered by this. I remember it because I was flabbergasted and impressed.
If two-year-old kids in Africa can responsibly wield machetes, what sorts of things can my children be trusted with if they’re given responsibility for them? Surely “toy guns” is in that category of things.
What my exact answer was to the question of what I think about toy guns I can’t recall, but it had to have been something along the lines of “Bring ‘em on!” Toy guns are fun for the kids, but they are also excellent teaching tools for me. See, one of my biggest personal goals as a mother is to raise three children who are skilled in the responsible use of firearms and will look forward to getting their first handguns and concealed carry permits when they turn twenty-one the way other people’s brats look forward to a wild trip to Las Vegas for reaching the same milestone. I cannot think of a better way to prepare my little ones than to have them start learning the proper handling and use of guns as soon as they are old enough to pick up a toy version.
Tammy talks a lot in her classes about the need to develop good muscle memory in handling your gun. Muscle memory is what your body will do automatically when you’ve trained it through repetition. A child who has learned how to handle a gun – any gun, toy or otherwise because we treat them all the same in certain respects – will have an advantage when it comes time to handle a genuine, working firearm upon reaching adulthood over a child who was allowed to mess around with toy guns without respect for proper handling or who was never permitted or taught to handle guns responsibly at all. The child who was trained will already have developed the muscle memory needed to make good gun-handling skills automatic. The toy gun, regardless of how unrealistically it may function, is therefore a powerful tool for the firearms-savvy parent.
How do you teach a child to handle a toy gun? The same way you teach an adult: use the Four Cardinal Rules of Safe Gun-Handling:
1. All guns are loaded, even if they aren’t. This means that even though the toy gun is a solid piece of plastic, for example, and isn’t capable of firing any projectile, it is to be treated as if it is a real, loaded gun.
2. Finger off the trigger. The trigger finger should be resting solidly against the frame of the gun above the trigger, not waving around in space or hooked on the trigger itself. Fingers don’t go on triggers until targets have been acquired and confirmed and you are ready to shoot. When my children walk through the house with their toy guns, I check to see where their trigger fingers are. If I can’t tell, I ask, “Where’s that trigger finger?” and almost invariably my children will call back, “IN REGISTER” or turn and show me by tapping the finger where it rests against the frame. My littlest one could do this when she was four. It’s easy.
3. Muzzle awareness. Watch the barrel and make sure the gun is pointing in a safe direction at all times. Again, as they walk through the house with their toy guns, I check to see whether the muzzle of the Nerf Blaster (I think that’s what my son calls the one that’s like a plastic Tommy gun) is pointed at the ground rather than waving through the air. If it isn’t, a gentle query of, “Where’s that muzzle?” quickly remedies the situation.
4. Know your target and what’s beyond it. No shooting at anything that isn’t your intended target. Fire away with the Nerf bullets at your sister if she agrees to be a target and you remember not to shoot her above the waist unless she’s wearing your head-encasing Clone Trooper helmet, but make sure my wall photos or pot of simmering spaghetti sauce aren’t behind her, please. And watch out for the block castle your younger sister is building; if you knock those blocks over onto the wood floor, your Nerf Blaster is MINE. Remember to stay alert: the fireplace is a great backstop and always a safe direction… unless it happens to contain a fire.
Additionally, you’ll want to establish some family ground rules about where toy guns are permitted to be used and under what conditions. For my children, this means that toy guns stay in the house or in the backyard, but they don’t go out in the front yard (or, by extension, the street or park) where the other 700 children in the neighborhood congregate to play. I don’t know how those children’s mothers feel about toy guns and the last thing I want is Little Billy’s mom on my front porch complaining that her son was held at Nerf-point on the playground because he was supposedly Darth Vader to my daughter’s Princess Leia. Nor do I want some overzealous, liberal mom to call the police on my child for having a teeny-tiny replica rifle that’s camouflaged plastic and makes this annoying zipper-like noise when you push the trigger, and therefore is obviously a toy except said officious mother doesn’t know the difference and has a zero-tolerance policy for things that threaten her narrow comfort zone. [For the record, I have no idea whether there are parents like that in my actual neighborhood but I’d rather not find out the hard way. And while I’m issuing disclaimers, there are to my knowledge no children around here named “Billy”.] Toy guns don’t belong on the bus, and they don’t go in our car unless they aren’t the sort that shoots projectiles of any kind (it’s hard to drive with tiny foam bullets whizzing past your head) and don’t look too realistic (I’ve no interest in being pulled over on my drive to ballet because someone mistook your aluminum cowboy pistol for your grandfather’s service revolver).
These are easy rules to learn and easy concepts to grasp, and all that’s needed to reinforce them with a toy gun is your attention and consistency. Stay on top of your kids, yes, but make it fun. Smile when you ask your child where the muzzle is or if she seriously believes that the neighbor’s cat is a safe direction in which to point the gun (the answer to that may depend on how you feel about cats; I don’t know). Giving your child the responsibility for her actions when she handles toy guns and letting her know that she’s building the skills she’ll need in order to be permitted to handle real guns in the future will give her a sense of pride and competence and of being trusted. Kids need responsibility and they want our trust. Give them the chance to exercise the former and earn the latter.
When your kid has these concepts down pat, you can make the decision or not to move on to things like BB guns or pellet guns that demand consistent, excellent gun-handling technique on the child’s part and – at least in the beginning and until you are certain that your child is ready – immediate supervision on yours. It should go without saying that these items, however, aren’t properly considered “toys” and that unlike Nerf guns or pop cap guns or non-projectile toy guns they must never, ever be aimed at any part of a human being, ever.
Nor even at cats.
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Defensive Awareness When You Have Children
Children can be logistic nightmares. It’s one thing to think about defensive awareness when it’s just you walking around by yourself or with other adults, perfectly capable of either moving away from or confronting a threat on impulse. Toss children into the scenario, though, and it gets complicated. Little minds may be absorbed with clouds or the beetle on the ground or the candy in the store window but utterly unconcerned with the man who is approaching alarmingly close. Little bodies that can dart deftly between (around… through… sigh) clothing racks may find themselves rooted to the spot if surprised or frightened. Little mouths that chatter non-stop about building a fort out of toothpicks and thus thwarting an invading ant army or who-did-what-to-whom on the school playground may be stricken dumb when what’s needed most is a piercing scream, and the kid with the nerve to climb to that floppy branch at the top of the tree may panic and fall apart in a situation where courage would be particularly useful. And those complications grow exponentially with each child present, for while you may be able to pick up one smallish kid and make for the hills if that seems the best course of action in the face of a threat, picking up two and moving at all can be problematic and – unless you’re blessed with the extra set of arms that mothers everywhere believe should come with a newborn – picking up and moving three or more is downright impossible. The situation with children is likely just as bleak should seeking shelter be the option of choice or, more daunting still, having to stand your ground right there on the spot, as you have to react to the threat while simultaneously coordinating the reactions and securing the safety of the little ones.
Not that I’m telling readers who have children anything. We’ve all been there, leading our precious charges out of the grocery store (“One hand on the cart at all times, please”) through the parking lot to the parked car (“Remember: cars can see me but they can’t see you”) at a wildly inappropriate time of the evening feeling not so much like a potential victim of violence as a potential instigator of it (“Keep whining I’ll give you something to cry about”), when we suddenly become aware of how precarious our position is, positioned as we are with our posteriors hanging out the sliding door of the minivan as we buckle the first of three children under the age of four into their safe but tedious car seat harnesses. [If you had more sense than I did and waited longer between pregnancies so you wouldn’t end up with a car full of sticky preschoolers, just smile smugly and play along.] What’s a mom to do, though? Those little ones can’t yet buckle themselves in and, as much fun as some of us remember having had in the floorboards and lying beneath the rear window of the car during road trips when we ourselves were pint-sized… well, that dog don’t hunt these days. No, it’s our duty as Mother to properly restrain the small folk until they’re old enough to do it themselves. It’s just that protecting them like that can leave us unprotected as we’re doing it.
The first thing to do, of course, is to be aware. Aware of your vulnerability, aware of your surroundings and aware of the other people in the area in addition to being aware of the children, what they’re doing, and what they’re likely to do. If you get the feeling that something isn’t right, err on the side of caution and turn back to the safety of a more populated area where you can seek out a security officer for an escort to your vehicle.
The second thing to do is prepare. Walk with confidence, looking purposefully around, keys in hand, children under control. If the children in question are old enough, start training them to be aware by having them look around for anything unusual or people who might be following, too. Have a plan in mind for what you’ll do if you are threatened (shout an order to STOP!, use your kubotan, use the shopping cart to keep distance between you and the attacker, run away, draw a weapon… it depends on where you are, the children with you, whether they are walking beside you or sitting in the cart, etc.), and be prepared to do it.
Assume now that you have arrived unmolested at your vehicle and, for the sake of argument, said vehicle is a sliding door minivan. Car doors, after all, provide you with a measure of protection that sliding van doors do not since the former open on hinges and therefore give you cover against your backside that the latter cannot. With that in mind, this is how I put my kiddoes into the van:
Having arrived at the rear of the van, looked at the area around my vehicle and determined that there is no visible threat, I send the children ahead of me up the aisle between our van and the car next to us while I press the remote key and open the minivan door. The kids can only face a threat from the front this way as they are “covered” on one side by our van, on the other by the vehicle next to us, and from the rear by me, with my cover being the shopping cart that I have pulled up behind me. Brilliant, right? I get a barrier behind me while I put the children into the car AND I get my shopping cart and its contents out of the way of the newly licensed 16-year-old kid driving his daddy’s FJ Cruiser who is too busy looking at the inappropriately dressed teenage girl coming toward him to notice that he’s about to plow into my purchases. Fortunately, these days the children are old enough to obey orders to climb in quickly, sit down, and buckle themselves up so I can close the minivan door as I simultaneously open the trunk and unload the groceries. In the good old days, however, I’d have had to climb in behind them and buckle them up myself.
In that case, you can do one of two things. The first is to climb in behind the children, close the minivan door behind yourself, lock the car doors, and take your sweet time buckling the little ones in before you return to the shopping cart and unload its contents into the trunk. It may be the safest option, but if it isn’t practical or possible, then your other choice is to buckle the kids in while the door is open. To do this, take another look around you to scan for threats, then start buckling a kid, scan for threats, buckle, scan, buckle, scan… always looking around you and always ready to implement a plan of action if you are alerted to a threat.
Now the children are in the car and properly belted up, and whether I’ve climbed in behind them to make sure they’re secure or I stood at the open door and did so, I close the sliding door, pop the rear door, lock the other doors, return to the shopping cart, angle it against the trunk the way Tammy Pinkston taught me to so it furthers its career as a barrier, and place the groceries into the van as I continue to scan the area. In hot weather, the open rear door provides a little relief from the blazing heat of the car interior where my children are complaining that their DNA is being denatured, and I make quick work of the groceries so I can get the engine started and the air conditioner going without unnecessary delay.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I always get the children into the car and lock it before I begin loading the trunk. If they are in the car I know where they are and, more to the point, I know where they are not, which is in the middle of parking lot marveling at the careening FJ Cruiser bearing down on them. I also know that if they are strapped into their car seats and some lunatic decides that a minivan with miniature fingerprints smeared all over the windows somehow isn’t full of children and would make for a nice carjacking prize, that person is statistically likely to change his mind when he realizes that three little tykes in the back seat will have the undesirable effect of jacking his arrest charges up from carjacking to kidnapping. If he’s foolish enough to risk it anyway and somehow gets past me, then at least I’ll have (the admittedly cold) comfort of knowing my children are safely restrained rather than being mowed down as the perp attempts to drive off in my car. Knowing where the kids are also frees up my hands and mind to fend or fight off a threat, which could make all the difference.
Groceries loaded, I close the trunk and… oh, good grief, this cart can’t sit here behind the van now that it’s empty. Fortunately, I have anticipated this and parked close to the cart return. I check that the minivan doors are locked, stash the cart in the return space, unlock the driver door, get in, lock the door, put the key in the ignition and drive away with one exception: in the heat of the summer, I’m not leaving my children in a car with the doors closed even long enough to walk two spaces to the cart return. What if I were delayed in getting back to them? It’s not worth the risk. In that case, I push the cart out of the way as best I can and hope that being responsible about parking it properly more often than not will spare me negative karma.
My purse, by the way, goes where the children do. When they climb into the car, the purse goes with them. It may become a target there for marauding children in search of gum, but not having it on me as I unload groceries means it isn’t a target for unsavory sorts with more sinister intentions.
I have a couple of other scenarios of my own to discuss and would be delighted to hear any which may be of concern to you, but those will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, be safe and teach those little ones your defensive awareness habits!
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Should You Shoot While Pregnant?
“Don’t shoot while you’re pregnant.”
Having done most of the things during three pregnancies that the old wives warn against and not only living to tell the tale but producing perfect children in spite of them, I take all unsolicited pregnancy “wisdom” with a hefty dose of skepticism. But the question of whether women should engage in recreational shooting while pregnant intrigues me. My first thought was that the growing fetus has the benefit of her mother’s skin, fat, muscle, uterus, and a load of amniotic fluid between herself and any noise made in the outside world. Sounds pretty cushy.
My second thought was of a Fourth of July party in 2003. I was due to deliver my first child before the end of the month. My husband, a born pyromaniac, had helped friends rig up an elaborate amateur fireworks display and I couldn’t wait to see what they’d come up with. It was impressive, with giant aerials and plenty of mortars, and I couldn’t have been more than 25 yards from where the pyrotechnics were being launched. During the 20-minute show, the usually laid-back baby Missy Moo of mine was, as I commented to a friend at the time, kicking madly as if to say, “Get moving, Mommy! Why are we not running from the gunfire?!?!?” It seemed clear that my little one had heard what was going on and was reacting to it.
I wasn’t a shooter then nor through either subsequent pregnancy, so the question of whether to head to the range packing pistols, ammo, and the unborn fruit of my loins never came up while it was of immediate personal concern. I wonder what my obstetricians back in the foothills of western North Carolina would have said about it. You never know with those medical professional types, what with the official positions of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics being so firearms unfriendly, and most of the obstetricians in the small town where I lived having been imports from big cities where gun talk doesn’t make for polite conversation. Since I don’t presently have need of an obstetrician and therefore don’t have one at my disposal for questions, I turned to the World Wide Web to see what I could find on the subject of mothers-to-be and gunfire. It turned up plenty of talk, but it would seem that there aren’t any good studies available as to the effect of gunfire on a human embryo or fetus. There was one involving sheep and Howitzers, as if the noise from a weapon like that compares to a 9mm or even a .40 handgun (it doesn’t, in case you weren’t sure). There was talk of lead poisoning and concussion through amniotic fluid. But there was no consensus. The sheep reported ended up with an author’s note that shooting during pregnancy is fine if precautions are taken, while a different report said that there is “undeniable, conclusive evidence” that shooting during pregnancy is harmful to the unborn. Hmmm.
Without conclusive scientific study, what’s needed is common sense. This is a good time to remind readers that we’re talking only about recreational shooting. I’m not going anywhere near what women who shoot as part of their professions ought to do when they’re pregnant… at least not in this article.
First, I know that little unborn Missy Moo heard those fireworks. They weren’t as loud for the most part as gunfire from point blank range, but they were loud enough and they elicited a strong response from her. There’s no question in my mind, or in those of the people writing the articles I read on both sides of the issue, that a fetus can hear gunfire from inside the uterus.
Second, lead exposure in utero leads to all sorts of crippling conditions in children. At any gun range one inhales lead powder, and according to one online article, the absorption rate from inhaled lead is almost 100%. Lead dust also gets on your body and clothes at the firing range. The extent to which this is passed to the embryo/fetus and how much exposure is needed to cause harm isn’t clear.
Third: silencers, HEPA facial masks, heavy clothing, shooting outdoors and alone rather than with a group of other shooters, washing thoroughly after shooting and changes clothes, using nothing larger than .22 rim fire ammunition and firearms… these suggested precautions (among many others) for pregnant shooters in tandem with the two points above point in one direction as far as I am concerned, and that is toward limiting shooting during pregnancy to when it is absolutely necessary, which is to say not participating in recreational shooting at all. It’s a safe bet that many of us gave up things we loved during our pregnancies in order to reduce the potential of harm to our developing offspring. It’s what we do as mothers both before our little ones arrive and after: we sacrifice things for the sake and safety of our children. It’s no different with shooting. Until a definitive report comes out after careful scientific study to the contrary, it is the position of this mother and of OPD that women should not engage in recreational shooting during pregnancy, and they should carefully consider whether to do so while breastfeeding.
The downside to this is that of all the times in my life when in hindsight I wish I’d been a shooter, it was during pregnancy. I don’t know about you, but target shooting is a tremendous stress-reliever for me, and it’s hard to think of a time when a good outlet for built-up stress would have been more useful than during pregnancy. Never mind that a woman who enjoys shooting doesn’t want her skills to atrophy for nine months (longer if she breastfeeds her baby). So what’s a mother to do?
Pregnancy should come with certain perks. Amateur foot rubs and professional massage therapy. A personal chef to cook so you don’t have to while you’re battling morning sickness. Chocolate. Loads of down-time. A comfortable chaise longue that takes the stress off your lower back and raises your feet. Airsoft pistols.
Yup. I can’t help you with any of the other pregnancy perk wish-list items, but that last one is a cinch. An Airsoft pistol looks and acts just like your own handgun, but it doesn’t have the lead ammunition, the kick, or the BANG. Get some Dirty Bird targets and a bunch of plastic pellets and you can console yourself over the temporary loss of your favorite real weapon by creating exciting Technicolor splatter patterns with your full-scale Airsoft replica piece in the comfort, safety, and convenience of your own backyard. While you’re doing that, stockpile ammunition for your regular gun, because you’re gonna want to come back to the range in a big way after your precious little bundle of joy arrives.
Shooting While Pregnant
Over the years I've encountered a few women who wanted to know if it was okay to shoot while pregnant. I always told them no because there's no way to protect the baby's hearing. A University of Illinois study states that sounds starting at 70 decibels can cause damage to the human ear. According to the Gunfire Sound Levels chart, a 9 mm puts out 159.8 decibels of noise. That's more than twice the dbs where damage can begin! This is a problem for unprotected ears, especially since decibel intensity increases by units of 10, and each increase is 10 times the lower figure (20 dbs is 10 times the intensity of 10 dbs, and 30 dbs is 100 times as intense as 10 dbs).
OPD Founder and Instructor
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This week I'm musing about responsibility. A friend on a message board I've participated in for years posted a story from the Pacific Northwest about an eighth-grader who was given five days of out-of-school suspension for making an oblique threat of harm on Facebook against his teacher. The number of women on the message board in support of the punishment doled out by the school administration was overwhelming and surprised me. There's nothing in the news reports which indicate that the child who made the comment was a problem kid or that he'd ever acted violently in the past. Why did the administration react as it did?
The punishment seemed to me like the human equivalent of throwing Brer Rabbit into the briar patch. "Oh, no, PLEASE don't make me stay home from school for a week! I might have to play X-Box and World of Warcraft and watch television all day while I'm home unsupervised." Seriously? What about having the administrator, the child's parents, and the teacher in question confront the child together, showing that they were willing to work together as a team, and ask the child to explain the comments? Why not provide an opportunity for the teacher to address the Facebook comments and suggest working together with the child to overcome frustration and make the school year a productive and cooperative one? Why not assign a research paper to the child on the First Amendment and when the line is crossed between protected free speech and an actionable threat? This was a teachable moment, as the school superintendent stated in interview, but the school botched it in my opinion. Punishment, in case we have forgotten from our own experiences as youths, only makes children angry. Discipline is another thing all together, and the school overlooked the latter in favor of the former, and it did so out of fear. The only thing that child learned is that the school is afraid of the mere words he speaks.
We live in a society where we are allowing ourselves to be governed to such an extent that we can't think for ourselves, can't reason our way out of sticky situations, and are too fearful to confront challenges: we want someone else to handle it for us so we don't have to get our hands dirty. It's a dangerous way to live, handing control over to the authorities on any level and not taking responsibility for ourselves, nor using our own power to hold others accountable for their offenses against us. We have to take our autonomy back. We have to demonstrate to our children that we will not live in fear but will be proactive in confronting the things that threaten us. Our country was founded on the principle of liberty, and we can't keep giving it away.
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My Child's First Firearms Lesson
What could be better than a day at the gun range? Taking your first-time shooter offspring with you!
My eight-year-old daughter, “Missy Moo,” received a Henry Mini Bolt Youth .22 rifle for her birthday this year. She’d never fired a gun before and was excited about learning to shoot, so naturally I turned to Tammy Pinkston to help my little girl get started off on the right foot.
We met Tammy at the range at 9:00 on a Friday morning for a formal lesson. Missy Moo was in her somewhat silly mood, presumably because I was there observing, but Tammy did an excellent job of engaging and keeping her attention. The lesson began in the classroom with a review of gun safety rules as do all OPD classes, and though my daughter had a good handle on the Four Cardinal Rules, Tammy expounded upon and helped her gain a more thorough understanding of them. They reviewed terminology and had a hands-on lesson concerning the different parts of the rifle, directions on how to shoot, load, and unload, and we all got the giggles over the notion of putting “your butt (of the gun) on your shoulder.” And then it was time to fire that first shot.
Missy Moo geared up in her shooting goggles, turquoise ball cap, and headphones, and we set up targets and a bag rest. I think I was more nervous than my daughter was: she seemed perfectly composed, while I had questions buzzing through my head. Would the first shot frighten her? Would she jump? Would she hit the target and feel satisfied or miss and become frustrated? She is, after all, the perfectionist eldest daughter of a perfectionist eldest daughter, and we both tend to want to be good at things right off the bat. Would she love it?
I needn’t have worried. The Mini Bolt is a fantastic little gun with a very easy-to-operate bolt action. We did struggle a bit with the cocking knob which must be pulled back after a round has been chambered in order for the gun to fire. The knob pull is stiff and was awkward for my very tiny eight-year-old to manage with her little fingers, but she eventually found a technique that worked for her and still allowed her to maintain safe control of the rifle. [This, by the way, is practically a Tammy Pinkston trademark: helping women learn the means by which to operate their firearms safely and effectively, if a little unconventionally.] With the rifle loaded and cocked, Missy Moo settled into shooting position and pulled off her first shot. She didn’t even flinch, but keeping the rifle pointed down range turned her head to look up at me and smile.
Her shot had hit the target, and subsequent shots only got closer and closer to the bullseye. Since we were the only ones at the range, Missy Moo had ample opportunity to inspect her targets up close, which she loved doing, then go back and shoot some more. When she got tired and wanted a rest, she asked if we had to leave. Tammy and I informed her that she was the boss that day: we would stay and shoot as long as she wanted to. She plunked down into a chair and asked me to take a turn with the rifle while she took a break, giving me instruction about which target to hit and how many rounds to fire. We took turns shooting, then inspected targets, then shot some more. The next thing I knew, we’d spent six hours at the gun range firing her Mini Bolt and a CZ 452 Scout youth rifle with a five-round magazine that we’d borrowed from a friend. As soon as we got in the car to head home, Missy Moo wanted to know when we could come back.
As a mom, it was thrilling to see my little girl take her first shot, gain confidence, and fall in love with shooting. She is, in my humble opinion, a natural: composed and serene, thoughtful and careful, and unruffled. Tammy had another private lesson come in later in the afternoon and when her student began shooting the 9mm pistol she’d brought, Missy Moo never even flinched at the shot from the other end of the range.
As someone who is looking forward to teaching some day, my daughter’s lesson was a learning experience for me, too, both in observing my daughter and observing Tammy. Guns are serious business, but shooting is fun, and Tammy did an excellent job of maintaining control over a sometimes silly little girl while keeping her interested and bringing the instruction down to a level that made sense to my child. I became aware of just how much a new shooter must be watched – hovered over, even – in order to make sure she uses safe handling techniques and that little fingers don’t end up where they shouldn’t. Tammy has a terrific system of walking a shooter step-by-step through the necessary motions as the student is preparing to take a shot, and I found both by watching her tutor my daughter and then taking a turn at it myself that vigilance is required in making sure fingers are kept off the trigger until it’s time to take the shot, that little hands are securely wrapped around the grip, that the muzzle clears the bag rest, and also that one must be very gentle in reminding a new shooter about a safety measure she overlooked or else she may look at you with tears in those gorgeous, giant brown eyes of hers and say quietly, “It’s only my first time, Mommy.” But for all of that, my daughter did exceptionally well, was very pleased with herself, and she, Tammy and I all had a wonderful time. Missy Moo and I finished up the day on another high note by heading to our favorite nail salon and pampering ourselves with matching pedicures and manicures, and while there she told anyone who would listen what she’d done all day.
My baby is an enthusiastic shooter. It doesn’t get any better than that, ladies.
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An Inappropriate Question
“Do you have guns at your house?” How am I supposed to answer this question? How are my children supposed to answer it? The keeping of firearms is a personal thing, and if you’re the one posing the question I want to know why you’re asking. Are you merely curious, or do you have an agenda? Are you pro-gun and looking for an ally, or are you anti-gun and looking for either an adversary or a debate? Will my response influence your opinion, either positively or negatively, of me as a woman and a mother?
If you know me at all well, you probably have this information. If not, you’re being awfully forward. While there are times, places, and circumstances in which I might indulge your curiosity and tell you what you want to know, you shouldn’t expect that I’ll be forthcoming in providing that type of information any more than I’d be likely to tell you whether I have a safe for my valuables or what color my knickers are.
Pose the question and unless I’ve got a good reason for sharing the answer I’m likely to respond with a sincere, “Why do you ask?” If I don’t like your reply or don’t care to discuss it further, I’ll ignore it, deflect it, or simply tell you that it’s none of your business. I may have guns, or I may prefer that you not know that I don’t; read into it whatever you want, but I’m neither confirming nor denying.
My children, on the other hand, aren’t going to get away with that. They need a simple, easy reply that’s suitable for other children as well as adults, isn’t impertinent or rude, and doesn’t require them to assess the other person’s motives and opinions. Ask my children if we have guns and they will respond (cross my fingers) with a surprised expression and an emphatic, “THAT’S not polite!” If pressed, they are instructed to tell the inquirer that they do not talk about things that are not polite, then change the subject.
[Note: that which is “impolite” is a relative concept. Sure, the topic of gun ownership is taboo, but amongst children the ages of mine, body and toilet humor are perfectly acceptable and fair game. It’s all about perception.]
And THAT’S what you get for asking.
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Keeping Your Children Safe Around Guns
As parents, the health, safety, and general well-being of our children is a – if not THE – top priority. We tell our children about the dangers around them, give them rules to obey and guidelines to follow, and reinforce all of those from time to time in expectation that our dear little ones will heed our counsel, make wise decisions, and live long enough to someday worry about their own children and grandchildren. We admonish them to use their best manners at all times, wear shoes so they don’t get stickers, eat what’s put before them so they don’t go hungry, wear sunscreen and a hat to avoid sunburn, and keep their fingers out of their noses because, well, ewwww.
We also give them responsibilities appropriate to their ages and abilities. We encourage them to do their homework without being told, feed and water their pets without being reminded, brush their teeth after every meal, and make their beds before they go to school (Yeah… how is that last one working out for the rest of you? Unmade beds are my daily reminder that children are little masterpieces in progress).
There are, of course, also things that we let them figure out for themselves. Climbing the jungle gym in flip-flops isn’t the best idea. Going without a jacket when it’s cold may mean you come home earlier than you’d like, and with chattering teeth. Turning the jets on in the tub after you’ve washed your hair can create more bubbles than you can breathe in. Your friends don’t like being told they have to play “your way.” Kids learn some things best when they discover them for themselves.
But some situations can be so dangerous that we rehearse repeatedly what we want our children to do if they find themselves faced with those threats. We tell them not to run with scissors in their hands, and to never run from a dog. Don’t put anything into an electrical outlet, and never put a plastic bag over your head. Do not get into the swimming pool without our permission and supervision, and never get into a stranger’s car. If you or your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop and roll. Our lives and homes are filled with potentially dangerous objects that we and our children live with every day. Curling irons. Hammers. Power tools. Gas furnaces and stoves. Matches. Kitchen knives. Chemical cleaners. But we don’t often lose sleep over wondering whether or not our children are safe with these things in our homes because we have taught them where the danger lies and either how to avoid it or how to handle it if they come into accidental contact.
Nearly half of all American households are estimated to have firearms within. In some places that concentration is higher, and in some places it’s likely to be less. But the odds are that even if you don’t keep firearms in your home, someone whom you know does. Yet how many parents teach their children what to do if they should encounter a firearm? What would your child do? Whether you are in favor of private gun ownership, vehemently opposed to it, or somewhere in between, you have a responsibility to be certain that your child is every bit as sure of what to do if she should come across a gun as she is about what to do if her clothes catch on fire or if she encounters a snake in her path. Telling her not to touch it isn’t enough; in fact, if your children are like mine – and I suspect most are – telling them not to mess with something only increases their curiosity about it. Telling her to notify the adult in the house isn’t enough, either, because it’s unlikely that a responsible gun owner with the proper respect for guns and firearms safety would leave a gun out for a child to find. So, what do you tell your child?
The most basic firearms safety for children, endorsed by the National Rifle Association and part of their Eddie Eagle program is that they should do the following:
- Don’t touch the gun.
- Leave the area.
- Tell an adult.
This is a great beginning place, and these rules should be an essential part of every child’s basic safety instruction, yet in the five years that my children have been in school, none of them has ever once been given this information. In none of the parenting books that I read which were suggested by pediatricians or other moms did I encounter these rules. Why?
Because guns and gun talk are taboo for a lot of people. Too many parents would rather pretend that guns don’t exist and that if they keep mum on the subject and don’t have guns in their own homes, they won’t have to worry about their children getting hold of one. The folly of that sort of thinking makes the news often enough to prove them wrong, however, and the biggest tragedy in that is the loss of a human life that could very well have been spared had the child been forearmed with the information she needed to know how to handle herself and given the responsibility to take control of a dangerous situation.
It’s well past time that we as parents and caregivers, regardless of our convictions on the topic of personal firearms possession, teach our children the respect for firearms which those objects deserve, that we incorporate firearms safety into the lessons we routinely teach our children, and that we work to be sure that every child knows how to keep herself or himself safe in the presence of firearms. Can I get an “amen?