While owning a firearm may be a matter of the second amendment across the nation, in Alaska it’s a matter of survival. 60.6 percent of Alaskan residents owned a gun in 2002, coincidentally as of 2010 about 60 percent of households also had at least one child under the age of 18. Between the second amendment, necessity, and procreation this makes understanding gun safety with children in the home critical information to parents, especially in the 49th state but also across the country. I consider gun safety with kids a three-part process.
Step One: Child proofing: keeping your guns out of your child’s hands unattended.
The first step in gun safety with kids is to keep your firearms in a way that the chances are nigh impossible your child can access them. The snag here is some forms of gun storage eliminate one of the main purposes of having a firearm. You keep guns for protection; if you can’t access them quickly they may become ineffective altogether.
This doesn’t knock a gun safe or cabinet off the list. Many gun owners possess multiple firearms (and other sharp not-so-kid-friendly weapons). You can store the bulk of your weapons in a securely locked location. This will prevent your child from accessing them and add a bonus of theft protection. Ironic I know, but guns are a valuable commodity and are often stolen. To preserve that vital OMG-there’s-burglar/bear/immediate threat-in-my-living-room need for a fire arm you have to get tricky.
In this case keep a gun or two on a high level and hidden from the eye. If you have younger children (we’ll get to older kids in step 3.) what they don’t see, they don’t think about or want plus by keeping your guns well above floor level they are out of a child’s reach. Some idea for creative storage areas include on top of cabinetry or shelving, in high cabinets or shelves, and/or mounted on the wall behind a tapestry or photo. Always be sure your gun is well secured and will not fall from its hiding spot, but can be quickly accessed and removed. If you’re extra crafty you could actually build an easy-open to an adult gun box to be mounted high on the wall or create a secret hole-in-the-wall storage spot behind something. Or, if you’re not so handy some manufactures actually make quick access gun boxes for this very purpose. They are tricky to open for a kid, quick to open for an adult who knows how.
Step Two: Gun proofing: Keeping your guns safe if found by a child
Next you have to address that nigh impossible chance that someday your child may manage to use those magical get into everything powers to access your well stored firearms. Your locked away guns have no need to be loaded. All guns for non-emergency use should be unloaded before storage, and the ammo should be placed in a separate locked container. A gun is just a heavy piece of metal if it’s not loaded. If you want to be extra-extra cautious or have ninja children, consider a trigger lock. These are locks that prevent the trigger from being pulled unless removed using a key or combination. Trigger locks should not be applied on loaded weapons.
For your emergency protection guns be sure the safety is on and functional. If the gun uses a magazine or other quick load method you can also remove the ammunition and leave it with the gun but not in the gun. In which case check to ensure the chamber is empty.
Step Three: Child education: Keeping your child safe around your gun
Even with all the above precaution, chances are at some point in their lives your child will come in contact with a gun even if it’s not your gun. The expression guns don’t kill people, stupid people kill people goes a long way here. To be frank, not educating your children about guns if you own them puts you in the stupid category and your child in the dangerously ignorant category (there is a difference).
From a young age you should make sure your child understands what a gun is and what a gun can do. This may require a visual killing of Roger Rabbit or Bambi, but better the beast than the kid. Be clear and strict about gun rules so that your child knows if you are not beside them, never touch a gun unless their life is in immediate danger. Try to keep age and comprehension in mind when teaching gun safety. A toddler for example just needs to know the gun is a no-no period, while a ten year old can be taught how a gun works and to use a firearm in an emergency, but to keep hands off any other time. Many areas also offer child gun education classes, if you don’t feel comfortable teaching your child how to handle a firearm. In any case, never allow kids to point or fire toy guns at people or animals. Also be sure that it’s understood any video game based activities that involved gun fire are pretend and not real life. By not making guns a mystery you take most of the “cool” out of them so to speak, as most parent’s know what kids aren’t supposed to know about, they want.
Have a plan of action for your child to follow if they find a gun, or another child has a gun. They should know who to tell and what to do as otherwise some children may try to bring a gun back to mom and dad rather than leave it where it is and tell an adult.
You may also enjoy:
Child Proofing Your Home: A Guide from Newborn to Toddler
Obama and Gun Control in Alaska
How to Become Gun Smith
Gun ownership rates 2002 nationwide (AK included)
Alaska census child per household 2010