Sooner or later, your kids will ask you about gun violence. It is everywhere so you cannot avoid this issue. We need to talk to kids about gun safety for their sakes and our own peace of mind.
Our kids will be only too aware of it. They may be asked to take part in a lockdown drill at school. On TV, we will see the usual coverage and alarming scenes flash across the screen. As kids become older, they will be able to absorb some scary data. There were 354 mass shootings in 2015 – that is about one a day! The number of people killed by gun violence in the USA is around 30,000 a year. That is ten times the number of victims in the Twin Towers attack in 2001.
Kids and guns
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Kids will come across guns in their friends’ homes – there is the frightening statistic that one in three Americans possesses a gun or firearm.
The rights and wrongs of gun ownership are not the issue here. The real problem is that guns are not toys and are made to maim and kill. They are weapons of warfare but they are more frequently used for homicides and suicides.
It is ironic to note that the organization called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the National Rifle Association give the same advice to kids when they see or find a gun at home:-
- Don’t touch the firearm
- Leave the area immediately
- Tell a parent/adult
But when we need to talk to kids about gun safety, there are a lot more issues involved. Here are some of the things we need to consider when we switch off our smartphones before having that conversation.
Gun Violence and Refugees in the News
It is a good idea to limit kids’ and teens’ exposure to tragic news events. It seems to me that there is far too much and scaremongering going on. Journalists and news media should be giving hard facts and reducing the tragic impact. The kids’ world is smaller than we think and we should not seek to enlarge it too much. This is the view of Steven Marans who is Director of National Center for Children Exposed to Violence at Yale University. His advice is to think of when we were teenagers. There were other more pressing matters such as homework, sports and peer relationships which were occupying our minds at the time.
Get things into perspective. You can reassure your kids that they are safe when travelling to school and moving around their neighborhood. I have written an article on The Good Men Project explaining how you can do this.
As regards the suffering of refugees and people in war torn areas, encourage your kids to be generous and caring. Get them organized and start collecting toys and clothes which can be taken to the nearest charity collection point.
Talk to kids about gun safety
Here are some 7 parenting tips you might like to follow.
- You will have to decide whether you want your kids to play with toy guns. The fact that toy guns look so much like the real thing is worrying. We have had tragic episodes where even the police cannot tell the difference between a toy gun and a real one. That has lead to many tragic deaths. There was a recent incident where some boys terrified a school with paintball guns but police were not sure how to react
“All I see is a barrel pointed at me, that’s it,” Harvey Police Officer Willie Giddens.
2. If you are against guns at home, you will have to let your views known to other parents where your children play. The fact is 2014 Pew Research Center study found that 33% of parents with kids own a gun.
3. If you do have a gun at home you will need to take the usual precautions. The firearm is locked away, unloaded and can only be accessed by yourself. You might want to avail of quick –access safes. Biometrics can now help us to access these through the use of fingerprints, voice or eye. This is one safe way of keeping a loaded gun for use in emergencies. You can protect your home without putting your children in danger.
4. If you feel that the presence of guns in a home where your children play is a threat, ask about the precautions. You could even ask to see where it is kept. If the replies are vague, then you can suggest an alternative venue like your house where children can play. You can politely point out that medicines and other dangerous items are usually locked away safely.
5. Watch the video below where a mom gives some useful advice on how to talk to kids about gun safety. The sooner you have this conversation with your kids, the better.
6. There are many child safety issues such as deaths in swimming pools, for example. Then there are all the issues relating to accidents in the home, electricity and cooking. Why should guns be excluded? As parents, we cannot avoid having to talk to kids about gun safety.
We all have a role to play
7. Pediatricians, doctors, teachers and parents all need to be on the same page about child safety. It is ludicrous that there is a bar on doctors in 3 States (Montana, Missouri and Florida) discussing gun ownership and safety. These are known as “doctor gag order laws”. It seems that there are 8 other states who toying with the idea of a similar ban.
There are dark facts staring us in the face. We realize that the numbers of homicides and suicides where guns are used is still staggering. Those figures get worse, the poorer you are and the darker your skin.
To sum up, I think our message needs to be one of reassurance and tolerance. We should help our kids to live safely but also make them aware that the country needs to be more secure.