Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Written by Nancy Donaldson
Every responsible gun owner wonders at what age the children in your home should be taught about firearms. The answer to this question, like so many others, is “it depends.” Some children are mentally more mature at an early age. Many can comprehend, focus on and follow instructions at four or five; others may not reach that stage until well into their teens. Most people agree, though, that it is important to take the mystery out of guns so that kids understand gun safety and the potential danger of mishandling them. At just a few years of age your children should be shown the firearms in your home to learn what they are and the importance of contacting an adult if they find a gun. With familiarity and open discussion your children may be less tempted to search for and explore by themselves the firearms that they may have been told not to touch. There are few things that can remain hidden from a determined child whose curiosity has not been satisfied. So, make an educational event out of introducing your kids to your firearms. Talk about basic safety, let them touch, let them ask questions. Teach your children to respect what a firearm can do, even though the true power of a firearm may be difficult for a child to fully understand. In today’s environment of video games and violent movies it is easy for kids to think that people who are shot dead can get back up again. Teaching a child that guns can be lethal may be tricky. Your objective should be to help develop a healthy respect for firearms but not to create fear. For younger children, the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program is a good way to begin a discussion about guns. Many of the program materials can be downloaded for free and you need not be a member to access the information. https://eddieeagle.nra.org/program-resources/program-materials/ Older children and those who are already mature enough to be shooting or hunting should be so familiar with the four “primary” gun safety rules that they can recite them by heart and fully understand their meaning. 1. Respect guns as though they are always loaded. 2. Always point a gun in a safe direction. 3. Never put your finger on or near the trigger until you are ready to shoot. 4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. When you think your child is ready to learn how to shoot, take it “slow and easy.” Make sure s/he has the strength to handle the firearm properly and the desire to try. Be patient; let the experience be fun with emphasis on demonstrating and explaining the safety rules. And don’t forget one of the most important truths about kids: They will pay more attention to what you do than to what you say. Set the right example by always practicing the gun safety rules that you want your children to learn.
Nancy Donaldson's Credentials: US Army Vietnam Era Veteran, Retired ARAMARK Executive, Volunteer Shooting Coach, Avid Hunter Teaching/Certifications Illinois Concealed Carry Instructor NRA Chief Range Safety Officer ASC Holster Draw Instructor Illinois Hunter Safety Instructor IDNR Wingshooting Instructor - Hunter Level Illinois “Learn to Hunt” Instructor NRA Pistol Instructor NRA Shotgun Instructor ASC Youth Coach Professional Organizations Illinois State Rifle Association National Rifle Association International Hunter Education Assoc. (IHEA) National Sporting Clays Association Illinois Conservation Foundation Shooting Organizations The Aurora Sportsmen’s Club Downers Grove Sportsman’s Club St. Charles Sportsman Club Blackhawk Sportsman’s Club Hilltop Meadows Hunt Club Hickory Grove Hunt Club Trophy View Hunt Club