(No Matter Where You Stand On the Topic)
“Daddy! Daddy! I see a gun!”, my four-year old daughter shrieked as she ran to my side.
Naturally, my response was a mixture of both panic and confusion with a million thoughts flashing across my mind. A firearm is out in the open in my house? Around my kids?
“Where did you see a gun?”, I replied in my best “reassuring dad voice”.
Full of urgency she firmly grasped my hand and pointed down the hallway to my son’s bedroom. Surely, my 16-year old was not in possession of a firearm, I thought as I approached his bedroom. Right there on his desk in plain sight…. a Nintendo gun controller.
Phew! It’s just a toy.
Relieved that there was no firearm within reach of any of my five children, regardless of age; I asked my son to put the toy away where my younger daughters can’t see it. Seem a bit dramatic? Here’s why:
My son is 16 years old. He knows the difference between pretend guns that can cause no real harm, and a firearms that has the power to kill or destroy. The problem with little ones; they don’t know the difference. They cannot make that association in their young impressionable mind that a gun is “ok” in this context but not in the other. These lines become blurred when we create allowances for situation-specific firearms acceptance around children.
Think about it; guns are glamourized in movies a pop culture, but demonized on mainstream news. Leaving policy and politics aside, no matter who you are or what you believe; as a parent, we want to make sure that we are not sending mixed messages to our kids on firearm respect and safety.
I’ve made it a point with each of my kids to have a one-sentence conversation with them since they could make the association of the word with the image. Over and over, even in passing, my wife and I have made it a priority to engrain a sense of respect and understanding of firearms in our children.
Initially this conversation started with explaining that guns are not for kids, to be touched by kids, or to be around kids. So, even if they see another adult with a gun, it is now muscle memory for my kids to know exactly what to do if they see a firearm through this one sentence conversation:
“What do you do if you see a gun?”, I’ll ask.
Their response is always and unanimously: “tell an adult”.
When my daughter ran to tell me that she saw a gun, I was SO proud of her, because I knew that she had not only listened to dear old dad, but she had the wisdom at the young age of four years old to apply it in a real-life scenario. Now, every time we pass a police officer on the street, “daddy I see a gun”. While she may not be able to comprehend the intricacies of when a gun is acceptable and is not; she understands that she has a responsibility to tell an adult when she sees one.
No matter where you fall on the topic of firearms; whether you are for, against or somewhere in between, we all know that guns are apart of our society. In my experience not only being in the industry, but a father of five; I’ve found this to be extremely helpful for me and my family. These are actionable steps we can take as parents to help our kids understand the world around us while protecting their innocence.
Jody Picou is the lead firearms trainer at Concealed Coalition who teaches at various Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and Scheels across the nation. He teaches firearms safety training with an emphasis on child access prevention. Sign up for a Concealed Coalition class here.