What’s your worst nightmare as a parent?
What would you do if you awoke to the sounds of your children screaming as they were dragged out of your home in the middle of the night?
It’s almost unimaginable.
That’s why the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans the right to bear arms. Citizens who exercise this right have the responsibility to practice gun safety in the home.
On the one hand, you have the right to defend your family against tragedies like these:
- Six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey was found strangled in her family’s basement in Boulder, Colorado, in 1996.
- Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in 2002.
- Three-year-old Kristyanna Cowan was stabbed to death by a meth addict at the CasaBlanca RV Park in Mesquite, Nevada, in 2003.
- On the other hand, all parents share the responsibility to take gun safety seriously, so the nation never has to endure any more senseless deaths like these:
- Teen shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shocked the country when they shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999.
- Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six educators with his mother’s semiautomatic weapons at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
- A 5-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister with a rifle he received as a birthday gift in southern Kentucky earlier this year.
High-profile shootings shouldn’t spook you into getting rid of your guns. But they should remind us of how important it is to use and store firearms responsibly.
Here are four simple gun safety rules for kids:
1. Remove temptation by keeping guns locked up.
Some parents assume they can avoid using a locking pistol case or rifle cabinet by simply hiding their firearms in a “safe” place. The reality, though, is that kids are curious, adventurous and smart. You might be (unpleasantly) surprised by just how much exploring and snooping your kids do inside your home when you’re not there.
Lock up your guns. It’s better to be safe than sorry. But remember, you still need to be able to access your firearm quickly in an emergency.
So, choose your lockbox wisely. You can find gun boxes that open in response to a computer chip in your wristband or ring. More advanced versions even respond to your fingerprints.
2. Never let a child touch a gun without adult supervision.
Gun safety in the home boils down to access. As your children get older, you may want them to learn how to use a firearm. For example, your family might enjoy hunting or target shooting.
Make sure you provide adult supervision whenever guns are involved. The State of California Department of Justice urges gun owners to store unloaded guns separate from ammunition. This makes it harder for young children or teens to use firearms without your permission.
3. Educate your kids on proper firearm safety.
Kids see a lot of violence on television and in video games. It’s important for parents to talk to children about firearm safety, particularly if you keep guns in your home.
Educate your children on the differences between make-believe violence and the real-world consequences of misusing or abusing a firearm.
When they are younger, teach them to avoid touching guns and to tell an adult if they see other children carrying weapons. As they grow older, teach them to always assume a gun is loaded and to keep their fingers off the trigger until they are ready to shoot.
Even if they’ve taken a gun-safety class, remind them of the rules, including how to properly clean and store firearms.
4. Keep gun-cleaning supplies out of reach.
Safety advocates focus so much on the dangers of bullets that it’s easy to overlook the potential health risks associated with cleaning supplies. Some solvents include toxic chemicals, such as kerosene.
If kerosene is ingested or mishandled, it may cause skin irritation, breathing problems or vomiting, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Keep your cleaning supplies locked up or at least out of reach of your kids.
Responsible gun ownership creates a safer society. That’s what America’s founding fathers had in mind. And it all starts with gun safety at home.