Few things have brought me a more varied combination of emotions than realizing I was going to be a father. I can still vividly remember the feeling of seeing those first blurry ultrasound pictures five years ago. Now, those years, and two more children later, the emotional roller coaster is still going strong. Hope, joy, sadness, worry, excitement, pride, discouragement. It’s all part of the parenting experience. Worrying about the threats the external world poses to our children is one thing, but what about the dangers within our own homes? To the tactically minded fathers and mothers, or fathers and mothers to be, the challenge of remaining prepared for a potential threat, and balancing the safety of your child is a challenge not commonly addressed.
Before I became a father, I kept my firearms staged when I was home. Easily accessed, hidden from view, but unsecured. It didn’t take very long as a father to realize that wasn’t going to fly anymore. By the time my firstborn had begun to crawl, I had changed my habits. Videos abound on the internet of curious and mischievous kids doing things, or getting into things that they shouldn’t. While it may be cute and slightly funny when it’s the ice cream or cookie jar, the results can turn deadly very quickly when it’s an unsecured firearm.
Figures from a 2016 study by the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that 3,140 individuals under the age of 19 were killed by firearms. Of that figure, the study states that some 60%, or 1,884 incidents were preventable. Speaking solely on the heartbreaking cases I have read myself, I would say that most of these are fairly easily prevented. There’s no reason a two year old should be getting their hands on a loaded (or unloaded) firearm. Not with the plethora of quick-access, concealable safes on the market. Most of us would state that we own firearms for the purpose of protecting ourselves and our families. But, part of that responsibility is protecting our children from our firearms.
There are many different solutions one could take to be both prepared, and safe with their firearms. I keep everything but my carry gun and home defense gun in a large safe, built for that purpose. I don’t worry about staging firearms through the house, as I typically am carrying while awake, and after bed time, the home defense gun is where it needs to be per our home defense plan. At no point are either my carry weapon or home defense weapon anywhere that could be accessed by anyone other than myself or my wife. On the infinitesimally small chance that something occurs when I am out of reach of a firearm, I will simply have to get to it as quickly as possible, or hold off the threat until my wife can respond. It’s that simple. I am much more comfortable with the odds of that happening, than finding one or more of my children dead or grievously wounded because of my own negligence.
As far as introducing children to firearms and teaching them; there are many, many theories on the best course of action. From what I have read, it seems as though children in homes where firearms are treated as a taboo subject are generally more likely to seek them out unsupervised and play with them. Firearms are everywhere, in books, video games, and movies. Very rarely are they shown in a responsible light, or safe and correct handling techniques demonstrated. So, it is up to us, the responsible gun owning parents, to demonstrate safety first and foremost. There is no concrete age to start showing your kids safe gun handling, rather, I would suggest paying attention to their maturity and ability to understand and follow simple instructions. I have drilled it into my four year old that if he is somewhere and sees a firearm unattended, he is to immediately tell myself or his mother, or another adult if we are not present. Will he do it? I certainly hope so. I hope that I have made clear that guns are NOT toys, can and WILL hurt or kill people, and that when he is old enough, I will teach him to shoot any gun I own. It is my hope that I have removed the taboo from the subject with him, and have set clear boundaries and given sufficient explanation that he can understand he is not to touch a firearm without me there and directing him. He has not been permitted to handle a gun, but I do allow him to watch me clean them or work on them, and give him the opportunity to ask questions. Through his questioning, he has learned that it is paramount to remove the magazine and check the chamber before proceeding any further with handling a gun. I do not MAKE him watch me clean or handle firearms, but he knows he can if wants. Sometimes he does, sometimes he’s got better things to do, and that’s perfectly fine, even preferable, for me.
By having a firearm in our homes, we are inherently bringing the potential for bad things to happen. The same with cleaning supplies, alcohol, tobacco, unsecured furniture (seriously, look it up. Young children are killed or seriously injured all the time by falling dressers, etc), vehicles, batteries, and medication. How much potential there is for them to harm themselves or others is directly on us, as parents. I would urge all of you to very carefully and honestly assess how you store your firearms at home. Be mindful of the limitations, inclinations, and abilities of your children. They are often simultaneously smarter, and not as smart, as we think. They can often physically do more, reach more, and lift more than we think. If your children are teenagers, please, remember your teenage years and monitor their emotions. Suicidal ideas are not uncommon during these years, and you may be unknowingly placing their undoing within reach. If this article scared you, good!! It’s a subject that has scared the hell out of me since I became a father, and again just doing the research to write it.
Please note that I’m not telling you how to raise your kids, and everything in here is simply my opinions and musings. Check your state and local laws for regulations governing how firearms must be stored in your home. Nothing here may be interpreted as legal or medical advice, nor any liability assumed, explicitly or implicitly.