If you choose to keep a gun in your home, the safety of your children and the children that visit your home is your responsibility and only yours. Guns and your children is a subject you cannot avoid or postpone. If dealing with the issues of guns and children is not one you can take seriously and take the steps necessary to protect them, than do not have a gun in your home. That means the safe storage and use of guns and the safety of your children must be your top priority.
Most states impose some form of legal duty on adults to take reasonable steps to deny access by children to dangerous substances or instruments and guns. As the adult, it is your responsibility to understand and follow all laws regarding gun purchase, ownership, storage, transport, etc. Contact your state police and/or local police for information regarding such laws.
Your choice to accept the responsibility to learn, practice and teach gun safety to your children and to do just that repeatedly, will determine the extent of your children's safety as a gun owner.
According to federal statistics, there are guns in more than one third of all U.S. households. Whether or not you make the choice to keep a gun in your home, your children will undoubtedly be in one of them. Therefore, educating your children in gun safety is a necessity for all children whether you own one or not.
It is critical for your child to know what to do if he or she encounters a gun anywhere, and it is the your responsibility to provide that training.Some sobering numbers:
It is important that we also look at how many children and young people are hurt by firearms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 1997, 2,514 children aged 0-14 were non-fatally injured by guns. In the same year, 30,225 young people aged 15-24 sustained nonfatal firearm injuries. These statistics include suicide attempts and both intentional and accidental shootings (2)
Most guns involved in self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries, (that is, in suicides and accidents) came either from the victim's home or the home of a friend or relative(3).
Parents of teenagers are less likely to store firearms safely (4). This is a big concern, since most firearm injuries happen to teens. Teens are at greater risk of attempting suicide, and a suicide attempt with a gun is likely to be deadly. More than 90% of suicide attempts with a gun are deadly, and teens in homes with firearms are at higher risk for committing suicide (5).
If you have children in your house or children visit your home regularly and you keep firearms, keep the guns locked and unloaded, with the ammunition locked in a separate location. Before your child goes to a friend's house, you should ask the friend's parent whether the family has guns in the house, and how they are stored. Read about Safe Gun Storage With Children In The Home Here
You now fully understand the NEED to teach your children about guns and their safety. What do you teach your children and how? Talking openly and honestly about firearm safety with your child is considered more effective than just ordering him or her to "Stay out of the gun closet," and trusting they will! Such statements may just spark children's natural curiosity to investigate further. Discussing guns and their use on TV with children is very important as well, as guns are often mishandled and most children are not able to understand the difference between being killed on TV and being killed in real life.
If your child has toy guns, you may want to use them to demonstrate safe gun handling and to explain how they differ from genuine firearms.
You may consider letting your child watch you shoot a cantaloupe, honeydew melon, or watermelon so that they can experience the noise and damage a gun can do. When they are mature enough (possible around eight years of age but only you as the parent can determine when your child is mature enough) teach them how to load and shoot the gun.
Children are curious - that is a fact. Most children, especially younger ones do not have the self-discipline to always follow your instructions. Therefore, I believe that you not only must educate them about the safety issues, but about guns themselves, along with how they work and safe handling. Here is a great article called "Disarming Kid's Curiosity" by Kathy Jackson.