How Much Should I Teach My Child About Gun Safety?

unloaded firearm that is safe

The issue of gun safety seems to be all over the news lately, especially as it concerns children. Many are of the opinion that the safest option for parents is not to keep guns in the home at all.

However, this approach is short-sighted. Even if you don’t own any guns, other adults do. Your child needs to be prepared if he or she visits a home and accidentally discovers a firearm.

For that reason, many feel that the most sensible approach is to demystify guns by teaching children how to handle them safely.

Here are some guidelines to make that happen.


Start Small

Introduce shooting to children by starting with a pellet gun or BB gun. While each child’s level of maturity is different, in general, most children are ready for this step between the ages of seven and ten.

Training in the use of these low-risk firearms provides children with a basic understanding of marksmanship in a way that’s much safer than with a real firearm. In this way, they can learn how it feels to hold a gun in their hands.


The First Hunting Trip

Somewhere between the ages of eight and fourteen, you can transition your child to a .22-caliber gun or pistol.

After reinforcing the basics of proper gun maintenance and safety, it will be time for your child to tag along on his or her first hunting trip to familiarize themselves with one of the primary purposes of gun ownership.

Review everything you’ve already taught so your child understands that this is the point where everything comes together.


Enroll Them In Classes

As your child matures in his or her knowledge of guns, it can be helpful to enlist someone besides you to reinforce the lessons of proper gun handling.

Once children enter the teen years, they are often more receptive to guidance from someone other than a parent.

Consider enrolling your teen in a hunter safety course or a youth rifle or pistol course. Classes like these can help bring together everything you’ve already taught.


Practice What You Preach

No matter what you say to your child about guns, ultimately it’s your actions that he or she will learn from.

Once you’ve taught them the rules, make sure that you’re diligent about following them. Never give the impression that it’s okay to break these rules once you are old enough or skilled enough.

Always keep your guns locked safely away, and keep them properly cleaned and maintained. Brush up on the rules of safety and etiquette yourself if your memory of these has grown rusty.


Prioritize Safety

Young children are naturally curious, while older adolescents are emotionally vulnerable as they work on building autonomy and independence.

For these reasons, safety should always be your top priority when it comes to firearms in the home. Safeguard their use carefully with locked storage containers and firearms safety devices.

Most of all, avoid sharing keys or lock combinations with others, especially teen children who should never use firearms without adult supervision.


Ultimately, it is a personal choice as to whether or not you teach your children proper gun practice and gun safety. But following these guidelines can serve as a valuable safeguard against accidents and gun violence.


Learn more about firearm safety on our Gun Safety Resources page!