Guns, Kids & Newtown

A few weeks ago I made an appointment for a gun safety class at a gun range. I have little experience with firearms — no one in my family owned them and the closest I came to gun ownership was a Super Soaker used in epic water gun battles in college. I didn’t even fire a gun until I was in my 20’s.

But lately I’ve felt a need to learn new things in anticipation of questions from my sons in the years ahead.

Gun safety is one of them.

In light of the tragedy in Newtown, the last thing I want to do is pick up a gun and pull a trigger. The thought makes me recoil.

But on the other hand maybe because of Newtown, it’s more important than ever that I acquire the skills necessary to teach my kids when they ask the inevitable questions about firearms, bullets, shootings, etc.

Or better yet, when I initiate the discussion with them down the road.

Like most men, I remember countless hours spent as a child and teenager playing cops and robbers, watching action movies filled with all manner of weapons and playing violent video games. I want through a major “Call of Duty” phase a few years ago. My boys will do those things, too.

But what I learned about guns I learned on my own, from friends or from the media. Neither of my parents knew much about weapons and I don’t recall either of them speaking to me about guns, the dangers of them or how to safely handle them.

As a society, I think that needs to change.

I know of at least one parent who won’t let their children have a toy gun in the house. They even avoid using the word “gun” around their kids. That seems extreme. But lately, I’ve wondered if that’s an appropriate response to the violence we’ve seen on the news and across our country.

When violence occurs in our world, we have a choice on how much information to share with our children.

However, I don’t believe we have a choice to pretend that violence doesn’t happen. Which is why I’ll most likely attend that gun class and try to soak up as much knowledge as possible. A bigger concern is how I’ll handle watching scenes of gratuitous violence on television with my children beside me. Fortunately, that question is still a few years away for me because my children are little. However, I know a lot of parents are wrestling with similar questions.

How do you handle this? What do you tell your children about guns, if anything? What do you do when there’s a violent scene in a movie or a television show? Is every moment a teaching moment?


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  1. My son is enjoying our Nerf gun battles and playing police and army with his friends. He’s six.
    He has no clue that Sandy Hook ever happened. He’s sheltered from the very real violence that is happening in the world. This said, though, he understands death is permanent. He also knows that death can happen by being shot with a very real gun.
    This is a tough topic to get our minds around as parents. There’s a healthy balance of information and education for our children, but I believe that balance is different for each individual child and family.

    • happiestdaddy says:

      So true, Chad. As a parent I always want to make the RIGHT choice — even to the point of obsessing over it. When the time comes I don’t want to harp on the dangers of guns and weapons and make him afraid or, alternatively, even more curious. I do trust that whatever happens at the time will be the right decision. To some degree, it’s about giving our kids information, a strong moral compass and letting them figure it out.

  2. Same as Chad in our house. Guns aren’t banned (hello, Cars 2), but we definitely made a healthy sweep after Newtown and tried to abate it some. I too think it’s extreme to never let them play with any sort of gun or even use the word, for as a boy once myself, I know that the more you make something taboo, the more I want to know about it. Guns are here and not going anywhere, and great point by you to take the approach of educating yourself firsthand as opposed to putting on blinders.

    Never thought about it like that.

    • happiestdaddy says:

      Spur of the moment decision made a few weeks before Newtown. I wanted to arm myself — see what I did there? — with information that I can pass along to my children. It’s one of many things in my life that I feel naive about. One thing I feel strongly about is that as parents we must keep growing, learning, questioning because our kids will always look to us for guidance and information. We haven’t watched Cars 2 yet. I’m gonna hold off for a bit 🙂

  3. Attending a gun safety class is a good thought. One I never thought about. I’m much less tolerant of overtly violent images/media/etc with my girls than anything else.

    • happiestdaddy says:

      Never bothered me until I became a parent. I don’t know if violent video games and movies desensitize children. But I do believe without parental supervision it is a slippery slope.

  4. Steve says:

    I was raised in a house that did not allow guns and it wasn’t discussed. After getting married and getting my own place, I purchased several firearms (over the years, not at once) and sat in the safety classes offered at my local gun club. I introduced each of my kids to firearms at a young age (showed them the gun safe, let them “help” me clean them, etc.) and routinely discuss firearms safety. As soon as I felt they were ready I would offer to teach them to shoot on a BB gun. The BB gun was a safer way to get hands on experience in safe handling of weapons. My oldest daughter (now 12) was interested at first, but fell away from it and I didn’t push the issue with her. I bought my 6 year old son his first .22 rifle this Christmas and we enjoy going to the range together target shooting.

    We have Nerf guns that we play with at the house, but nothing that resembles real guns. We don’t movies or TV shows that promote a lot of violence and we keep video game violence to a minimum as well.

    I often set up watermelons, pumpkins or other various items as a target to show the damage that a firearm can do to something besides just putting a little hole in a piece of paper.

  5. happiestdaddy says:

    Steve, thanks so much for sharing. Do you feel like your children have a healthy respect for guns? Do you fear they would ever mishandle them?

    To be honest, I enjoyed my session on the gun range and would like to do it again. Someday down the road I might want to introduce my children to guns but I’m concerned about opening Pandora’s box…

  6. Steve says:

    I think that they do have a healthy respect for guns. I really don’t worry about them getting unwanted access to my gun safe as my wife and I are the only one with the keys. I think that my wife and I have taught them enough to know that they do not touch them or even go near them unless an adult is present (not that we leave firearms around the house) and more importantly that if they come across a gun they leave the area and get an adult. I think that once you remove the mystery surrounding guns and speak to them truthfully about what guns can do, you’ll be surprised how much they understand.

    I’m glad your enjoyed your time at the range. It’s a fun hobby (although expensive at times) and you can learn the skills you might need one day to save your life or the life of a loved one. You’ll know when the time is right for you and your kids to have the talk about it. You could always pick up a cheap BB gun at walmart and start them off small like I did.

This is what I think...