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Kids And Guns – How Young Is Too Young?

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Every parent asks themselves this question. If you’re lucky enough to be brought up with firearms around, this probably isn’t a big deal for you. However, within the last five years, more Americans are first-time gun owners with little to no experience. This can be a challenging issue for a parent, trying to find that balance between safety, having firearms in your home and on your person.

I am a former marine and carry every day. So naturally my five-year-old daughter has always been around guns. She started to ask questions about them around age three. Being curious about seeing dad cleaning them and one always on my side, she wanted to know what they were.

There is no magic age when children are ready to be introduced to firearms. If you’re a parent, you know that some children mature faster than others. The best thing to do is start them when you feel they can respect the weapon for what it is capable of. If you try it and see signs that they are not ready, don’t be disappointed. Just give it some more time and try again. It’s better to wait until they can safely handle a gun than risk an accident.

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One mistake a lot of parents make with guns when it comes to their kids is that they make them so off limits they end up accomplishing just the opposite of goal. Let me put it this way- if you tell a child not to do something, what do they do quite often? The child will do exactly what you said not to. The best way to cure their curiosity is to make sure they know never to touch them without your permission but at the same time can see them if they simply ask. Removing this “forbidden fruit” and showing them the destructive power they possess can prevent an accident.

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When I was about eight years old, my father took me out to the field behind our house and set a gallon jug of punch on a fence post. He then took his .357 magnum (that I’d seen him carry practically every day) and shot it. It completely destroyed the jug and sent red punch everywhere. He then said to me, “Son, now that’s what can happen to someone you care about if you play around with them, but you also know we need guns for things like your dad getting meat for us to eat and for people like policemen to keep us safe from the bad guys, right?” This may seem like a dramatic or morbid way to teach a child about gun safety, but I’ll tell you one thing- I never forgot that.

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Taking them shooting will also show them firsthand what can happen to someone when firearms are not handled properly. When starting them off, I would recommend using a small caliber. If the recoil is too strong for them to control it will also be difficult for them to hit the target and be a bit scary. You want it to be as fun as possible for them the first time, or they’re never going to want to do it again.

It’s funny to think that in the 40s, they used to teach kids marksmanship just as you would shop class. That would seem crazy to a lot of Americans now but 70 years ago our culture was very different. The most important thing is to trust your judgment. No one knows your children better than you, so no one is more qualified to tell you when they are ready to start.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. indegobudda

    March 31, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    I started my son slow and steady..started with Nerf guns showing him safety and respect and when he took care of his guns and ammo the right way I got him a pellet gun and thought him how to shot co4ectly and worked up to a cricket rifle now through the years of me showing him he knows exactly what to do

  2. cathi Bray

    March 31, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    I agree completely. I have a year-round firearms training academy for junior students, and we start them at age eight to prepare them for competition, but I think they are never too young to begin exposing them to the guns/gun range, and to gun safety. I have a picture of a friend’s two year old who is holding his Nerf gun with his finger nicely indexed along the barrel 🙂 and my five year old grandson was taught the Eddie Eagle program and basic firearm safety at four. The more exposure we can give them early on, the less curious they will be later. Good article!

  3. Terry

    March 31, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Sometimes kids and guns do mix. In October 2012, a 12-year-old Oklahoma girl shot (but did not kill) an unarmed burglar who broke into the house while she was home alone

    Kendra St. Clair, 12, was at home alone in Oklahoma, when loud banging began on the door to her family’s home. Soon, the glass shattered and an intruder had entered.

    “I was scared and I didn’t know what to do next,” Kendra [said].

    Petrified, she called her mom Debra.

    “I said Kendra get the gun and go get in my closet now. And call 911.”

    The young 6th grader followed her mom’s orders to the tee.

    Kendra had taken shelter in a closet, clutching her mother’s .40 caliber glock gun while she listened to the intruder make his way around her home.

    Her fear intensified to sheer terror, when she saw the knob of the closet door beginning to turn.

    At that point, that for the first time in her life, Kendra fired a gun.

    Police said the bullet traveled straight through the closet door and struck 32-year-old Stacey Jones in the shoulder, scaring him out of the house.

    They arrested him a few blocks away and charged Jones with first degree burglary.

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/kendra-st-clair-oklahoma-girl-12-shoots-intruder/story?id=17524438

    • Devin

      April 2, 2014 at 6:32 AM

      But did it do the job?

  4. Frank

    March 31, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    There is no too young! Of course any information/introduction should be age appropriate. Safety instruction/mindset should be first along with information about what a gun is. First age to shoot a gun? When they can. First age to help cleaning a gun – when they can, it may only be moving the patch through the barrel.

  5. Robert Davison

    March 31, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    I learned gun safety with my first cap gun when I was probably 3 or 4 years old. My dad,uncles and maternal grandfather were hardcore on safe handling of guns and hunting safely when we hunted birds out in the fields and I was expected to handle my cap gun as if it were a real firearm and then my BB gun after that. I also had a stepfather for all his faults and defects was serious about the safe handling of any firearm. He and my mom bought me my first rif, a 303 British that I still have, when I was 15 with a lecture on the safe handling of it.
    Demonstrating safe and handling of firearms to child in the house is a major part of having firearms in the house even if the child decides that he or she isn’t interested in the shooting (range)or hunting aspect of firearms.

  6. chad

    March 31, 2014 at 2:23 PM

    When teaching children and women firearm usage correct fit is essential! In fact it is the number one factor that I consider when when teaching a first time shooter of any age or body stature. I’ve started children as young as five with properly fitted .22 rifles with great success.

  7. Grey 64

    March 31, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    I agree 100% if I had to write an article on this subject it would read exactly the same line for line!! As a father of 4 and a “gun toating southener” my wife and I have had this discussion several times.. She being afraid of what could happen and well my argument is the same.. Lack of knowledge!! It might be the only argument I’ve ever won!! “Unless she reads this”!! I applaud the schools in the small town we live in they still teach a “hunter safety course” in high school.. Gotta love the south!! I also use an old saying from the past for my reply to the arugument these days.. ” What was it that killed the cat”?? That’s right curiosity!! If you really want to leave an impression no child could forget try useing a watermelon!! They feel how hard it is then watch there face as they see what happens to the back side of it… Little hole in front and nothing in back!! Of course the red fruit and peaces of watermelon rind everywhere is the wow factor that to me showes kids the real power and what can happen if you don’t respect a firearm of any size!! Then especially for the little boys ya get to eat the brains!! 🙂 Watch how slow they reach into that watermelon.. At that point you see if they fully understand!!! “Should be a no brainer”!! Sorry couldn’t resist it… One of my longstanding household motto is… “If you see a gun run”!! Short and sweet.. Great article!! Truth be told you’ll enjoy shooting the watermelon more then your kid will.. So when he/she sees your ear to ear grin let them know as soon as they prove there safe and respect guns it will be there turn!! God bless America!!

  8. Micheal

    April 1, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    BUTTE , MONTANA Shotgun preteen vs. Illegal alien Home Invaders…Two illegal aliens, Ralphel Resindez, 23, and Enric Garza, 26, probably believed they would easily overpower home-alone 11-year-old Patricia Harrington after her father had left their two-story home.
    It seems the two crooks never learned two things: they were in Montana and Patricia had been a clay-shooting champion since she was nine. Patricia was in her upstairs room when the two men broke through the front door of the house.
    She quickly ran to her father’s room and grabbed his 12-gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun. Resindez was the first to get up to the second floor only to be the first to catch a near point blank blast of buckshot from the 11-year-old’s knee-crouch aim. He suffered fatal wounds to his abdomen and genitals.
    When Garza ran to the foot of the stairs, he took a blast to the left shoulder and staggered out into the …street where he bled to death before medical help could arrive.
    It was found out later that Resindez was armed with a stolen 45-caliber handgun he took from another home invasion robbery.
    That victim, 50-year-old David 0’Burien, was not so lucky. He died from stab wounds to the chest.
    Ever wonder why good stuff never makes NBC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, or ABC news……..?

  9. Orrin M. KNutson

    April 1, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Dear Sirs,

    Personally, my father showed me the power of a firearm and allowed to to shoot his S&W Model 1917, in .45acp (his daily carry revolver) when I was 4 years old. From that day on I was not only hooked on guns, but respected the lethal power of firearms.

    Since that magic day, was hunting by myself at 7, competative marskamanship shooting by 10. I went on to military traininng, then had a life long career as a peace officer, firarms/sniper and officer survival training instructor.

    Don’t get me wrong!!! I’m not encouraging anyone to start there children as shooters that early these days, but certainly they need to be introduced to and develop a deep respect for them.

    God Bless,
    Orrin M. Knutson
    Retired LEO and published author

  10. Mai-Li Dong

    April 1, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    I want to know different scenarios that people who have not grown up in gun culture are now be able to promote gun safety as well as promote great respect. I avidly seek advice as I live in a semi urban area, in tight spaces with very young around, new gun owner and not a concealed carry…

  11. Pingback: Kids And Guns – How Young Is Too Young?

  12. richard1941

    April 6, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    When I was ten years old, my dad gave me my own rifle. It has a cut-down stock to make it easy for a kid to handle. He took me to the range, where I learned all the safety rules. The next year I was at a summer camp that had a rifle range. After listening to the “instructor” explain how to hold the rifle, how to line up the sights, and how to breathe… I gave him a pleasant surprise. He asked if I had ever been shooting before. I lied. I just said, “No, I’m only doing it like you told me. Is that OK?” This same instructor also learned from me how to catch lizards with a wild oat noose (something else dad taught me).

    Since age 10 I have never been without a firearm. I am now 72 and don’t intend to give it up. Guns are a lot like sexuality: potentially dangerous knowledge best not introduced before a kid is ready to grasp the idea and take responsibility.

    Some years ago there was a home invasion assault in my home town. The rapist did not know that a 13 year old kid was in the house. The kid got his .22 rifle, burst in on the rapist, and shot him totally DEAD. After this, he was subjected to psychiatric grief and violence counseling. I asked him what the counseling was like and why it was needed, since his actions defending his mother were totally sane, rational, and correct. He said that he suspected something was up, so he just pretended to go along with the counseling process. Smart kid! (Several years later, I was his math tutor and got him into an elite math class at the local high school.) That was 40 years ago; I wonder what became of him…

    • Ryan

      April 24, 2014 at 7:11 PM

      Good kid!

  13. tinkerunique

    May 28, 2015 at 10:20 PM

    MY kids were shooting a .22 before they were in school. That was a treat and reward for good behavior. My daughter was shooting a .22 revolver (with help) when she was 4. Both liked to go with me to the range and learned well the safety and upkeep on the guns in the house. I have given “Safety Classes” to Boy Scouts years ago. The majority of them had little experience with guns, and some were good with a gun. AFTER they passed “SAFETY” class with the .22 carbines, we went to the range. The .22 cartridge is thought to be “beginners only” for some – but they jump when I shot a pint milk carton that was full of Strawberry Jello. The hollowpoint made it more dramatic, but the point was driven home of the possible power of the little cartridge. AFTER they had their badges, there was a monthly group that went to the range to see JUST WHO could put 10 shots into the “X” with the smallest group. My daughter can shoot better than many of the local guys and her daughters like to shoot the string of helium balloons waving in the breeze.

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