Youth Gun Safety: A Smart Parent's Guide to Keeping Kids Safe
As a parent, you’ve likely thought about how to make sure your child is "gun safe" because many Americans own and keep guns in their homes.
Children are naturally curious. To learn about the world, they gravitate towards new and interesting things, especially something that often gets portrayed as "taboo" like guns (or sexual relations, drugs, or alcohol). Though it can be a nerve-wracking discussion, an important part of preparing your child to be an adult is teaching them how to think about guns when they do encounter one, whether that’s in your home or someone else’s.
What about if you want a gun-free household? Your child will still see guns used in the movies and on TV. They’ll also likely come into contact with one at a friend or relative’s house, given the stats detailed below. That’s why properly educating your child on gun safety is a lifesaving skill for all children. Here are the best ways to ensure your family knows how to properly handle guns, whether you keep them in your house or not.
Ask This Question First
According to Asking Saves Kids (ASK), a national campaign to encourage gun safety, one in three American homes with children has a gun. So even if you don’t keep guns at home, the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign promotes a simple, yet ingenious idea that can help keep your child safe wherever they go. They advise parents and caregivers to ask this one critical question:
"Is there an unlocked gun in your house?"
Parents, or anyone in care of a child, need to ask this important question before deciding whether to send a child over to someone’s house to play. Conversely, if children are coming over to your house to play, then it’s also important that you tell the child’s parents beforehand that you keep a gun at home. Keeping kids safe takes communication by everyone involved.
Safety Starts at Home
If you choose to keep a firearm in your home, you need to keep it in a securely-locked location only you can access. Here are three tips on how to do this:
- Use a safe. While gun safety education benefits children, the best way for you to make certain children don’t handle your guns without your supervision is to store all firearms and ammunition in a safe, secure place. You can find gun safes of all sizes, including the small and affordable ones that can fit into a nightstand. You can get your firearm quickly using a digital keypad or biometric touchscreen.
- Know where and how to secure firearms. Only adults who use the guns and ammo should know where and how to access them. Any gun, even stored in a safe, should be unloaded when you’re not using it.
- Do it now, not later. If you carry a handgun outside the home, make it a habit to immediately put your gun in a safe as soon as you get home. Don’t put it down on a table with the intention of storing it later. You may forget.
If you choose not to have firearms in the house, you still need to educate your children on proper gun safety. Sooner or later, your child will likely come into contact with a gun at someone else’s house. Guns are like alcohol or drugs. As a responsible parent, you need to educate your child first on guns, before they come into contact with them when you’re not around. You don’t want someone else raising your kids for you, especially about a topic so important to their protection. If they know exactly what to do, their chances for acting safe and responsible go up considerably.
Modern Ways to Secure Firearms
Thanks to modern innovation, there are many safe and secure ways to store your firearms and ammunition. They include the following top three types:
- Biometrics – Fingerprints, a uniquely identifying feature of an individual, is the feature biometric gun safes utilize to lock and protect firearms and ammunition. Biometric safes provide the highest level of protection and prevent unauthorized entry. They are designed to enable only those with stored fingerprints in its database to gain access. Naturally, they are quick, reliable, accurate and easy to use. Because all you need are your fingerprints, you don’t have to carry a key, recall a code or try to nervously key a combination in an emergency.
On the downside, biometric safes need electricity to power reading units, storage and other components. If the electricity goes out, or your battery goes dead, you can be locked out of your own safe. To avoid this, opt for a biometric safe with a key override feature. Be sure to keep the reader clean and free from damage to avoid reader problems, as well.
One of the top models available today is the Barska Biometric Safe, priced around $175. It is capable of storing a few small guns and works well for households and offices. You can mount it wherever you want for fast and easy access when you need it most. The Barska Biometric Safe is great for use in emergency situations.
- Multi-Gun Safes – You can find a variety of multi-gun safes on the market; however, Stack-On gun safes are considered the best out there. Stack-On gun safes are affordable, sturdily built and meet all the government regulations and certifications you need to securely store all of your guns. All Stack-On multi-gun safes are tested to withstand fires up to 1400 degrees F and they are sturdy enough to handle falls and bumps. They offer a variety of styles in several price ranges.
- Gun Cabinets – Most gun cabinets of yesteryear don’t come with locks and other security features, but the new, modern ones do, so opt to buy a recent model for better security and safety. If you must go for an antique model, be sure to equip it with the best locking mechanism you can find.
- Safety Bullet - If you want to keep your gun loaded and in an easily-accessible place yet you also want to secure it so it can't be inadvertently used, then the Safety Bullet is a great tool. It allows you to keep a custom-made "dummy bullet" chambered first that makes your gun unusable if it's accidentally fired. All you have to do is cycle your gun to remove the Safety Bullet and then it's ready for live action. Watch this short educational video from the Safety Bullet's creator to learn more.
The Paragon 7550 8 Safe for Gun Rifles is the top gun cabinet under $500, because it comes with an ample amount of security and space for storing up to eight guns. It can also anchor to the wall or floor. Two other affordable models that are high-quality include the Stack-On GCDB-924 10-Gun Double-Door Steel Security Cabinet and the Homak HS30003630 12-Gun Security Cabinet, Silver Vein.
No matter what type of gun safe you opt for, you may want to consider one more safety step: anchoring. If your gun safe is not properly anchored, burglars can break into it by moving it to someplace else where they can take the time to gain entry.
Hence, it is important to also ensure that your safe is well hidden and not easy to find. Anchoring provides additional security regardless of the size of your safe. Every safe comes with a hole on the bottom, which you can easily anchor into concrete or wooden floors. If you wish to take your safe with you, or you want to relocate it, all you have to do is remove the bolts.
Have "The Gun Talk" Often
Sit down with your children and have multiple conversations on guns and gun safety. Establish family rules for how to handle the presence of guns in any situation. How soon should you start? The answer depends on the comprehension and maturity level of your child.
Here are some guidelines for discussing firearms:
- Remove the romance. Talk about how television, movies and the Internet sometimes romanticize guns, and explain how that is not a reality.
- Provide the facts. Talk about how many people each year are injured and killed by firearms, and explain their main uses, too, like for the police to maintain order, for hunting and for personal protection.
- Talk about unsafe neighborhoods in your town or city. Discuss unsafe neighborhoods and areas with high crime rates that your child may need to avoid.
- Bring a buddy. Tell your child to use the buddy system for safety by never going anywhere alone.
- No secrets allowed. Give your children a safe space to tell you about bullying or other threads of violence that they encounter to you right away.
- Nurture a healthy respect for firearms. Give your child the tools to be smart around guns in the right environment. There is a time and a place for everything, so if your family likes to go on hunting trips, for example, make sure your child knows the difference between using a rifle out in the field and leaving a rifle unloaded and locked away safely at home.
- Know and teach children gun laws. Lead by example, and practice good safety habits regarding ownership and ongoing storage.
A number of programs, including the ‘Gun Safe’ campaign, don’t take a bad or good stance on guns and the related laws. Rather, the programs focus on safety. For example, the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, teaches that, if children see a gun, they should do these four things:
- Don’t Touch
- Leave the Area
- Tell an Adult
Ensuring your child remembers these four things can help protect them if there is a gun present without proper adult supervision.
Keep in Touch
In today’s busy world, it can be harder than ever to keep track of your kids, especially when they become mobile and are driving with or in other kid’s cars. There are a number of smartphone apps, like Glympse or Life360, that help you track family members and get instant updates when their location changes.
For college students or kids away from home for the first time, bSafe is a good app for being in an unfamiliar location. It also helps friends keep track of each other for added safety, and has many other helpful features.
Here are some more modern innovations to help you keep your child safe at all times:
- School Safety Response SOS Screen – Aimed more for schools than individual kids, the GEOS School Safety Response system provides an instant link between schools and emergency responders via an SOS/Panic button on your mobile device. One touch of a button gives an exact GPS location to emergency responders and allows them to listen live to what's happening. For the next year, this is a free service for schools, so it might be worth a call to your local school district to see if they're taking advantage of the program.
- Zubie – If you have a young driver, Zubie can bring you some peace of mind, even if you don't drive a totally-connected car. You just plug it into your car's diagnostic port and it will share speed, location and GPS data, as well as diagnostic data with you, so you’ll be alerted if there are any problems. This is great if your kids are driving back and forth to college or work. You can purchase the Zubie device and service for around $100.
- V. ALRT – There are many wearable trackers your kids can wear, in a variety of price ranges, as well. An affordable options in $60 range is the V. ALRT, which allows children to send urgent texts, calls and location information to as many as three preprogrammed contacts. All parents need is the related app to be connected 24/7 on their smartphones. The V. ALRT can also sense a fall, which is an added bonus if you have an accident-prone child like most parents do.
- FiLIP 2 – Although a bit pricey at approximately $200, the FiLIP, is a spy gadget type of watch/phone your kids will love to wear. Parents are able to program contacts into this device, as well as locate and track their kids. You can even set up a geo-fenced "SafeZone," an area you preprogram to allow the wearer to travel in that area without having to worry. When your kids venture outside of the safe zone, an instant alert goes to your smartphone.
Knowledge is power and these modern inventions help ensure you're always in the know.
Learn About Gun Safety Together
Take time as a family to learn gun safety together. There are a number of programs designed for families and children, so take advantage of what they have to offer. Here are some of the top programs out there today:
- Field & Stream provides practical insight, suggesting a bucket list of ideas such as training at the range and shadowing seasoned gunmen first before children use guns on their own.
- Not to dismiss the feminine side of gun instruction, fead what The Well-Armed Woman has to say about introducing children to guns.
- The NRA, along with "Eddie the Eagle", give parents advice on discussing firearms and the need for respect and safety when around and using guns.
- The Kids Health site gives insight on diet, exercise, and domestic security. Read what you should do if you have guns in the home, how to discuss firearms and home protection with kids, etc.
- The State of California lays down basic rules and tips for gun owners, devoting a section to gun-owning parents and associated responsibility.
At first glance, guns can be a scary topic. With knowledge and discussion amongst your family though, you can keep everyone safe. To do so, you need to exercise common sense, learn a bit of gun safety know-how and have an open conversation with your children.
Give your kids the knowledge they need to be safe. They’ll thank you, and they may even help their friends also learn to be gun safe. Make it a family affair, whether or not you choose to keep guns in your home. Lock them up and always remember to ask, "Do you keep an unlocked gun in your house?"