How Are We Actually Supposed to Talk to Our Kids About Guns?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, it is estimated that one-third of Americans own a gun. Secured or unsecured, legal or illegal, most likely you, a family member, a friend or your neighbor own a firearm. The data also reveals that in 2017, a total of 39,773 people died from a gun-related injury. 

In the United States, firearms are the second most common cause of death among children. Each day, 19 children are killed or receive emergency treatment for gunshot wounds. With all these alarming numbers parents and tutors should start having conversations  — whether or not they have a gun in their house — with their children about the responsibility, the danger and consequences of manipulating a firearm. 

gun education kids

Plato (the Athenian philosopher) was right when he said that ignorance is the root and stem of all evil. Kids are curious, adventurous; They like to explore, open the drawers and without education, their ignorance could be deadly.  

In 2016, a 6-year-old boy accidentally shot his 4-year-old brother while playing with his mother’s gun. During the same year a 4-year-old died in Philadelphia after she shot herself in the face with a gun she found in her home. According to Very Well Family, multiple studies concur that despite being warned to never touch a gun, kids do it regardless when they find the opportunity. But why do they do it?

Guns naturally attracts kids, especially if they like to play as police officers, cowboys or they’ve seen someone shooting bubbles or water from a gun or rifle shaped toy. In fact, a 2018 research study from Emory University revealed that children rarely can tell the difference between a real gun and a toy gun. 

The findings show that “only 41 percent of children between ages 7 and 17 years old correctly identified the real gun” from the toy and “only 47 percent of gun owners stored their guns locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition” as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Also, 53 percent of the children knew where the firearm was stored and 45 percent knew where the ammunition could be found. 

“One of the most dramatic findings was how easily caregivers and children can confuse real guns with today’s realistic-looking toy guns,” says Kiesha Fraser Doh, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine physician at the Emory University School of Medicine. “Especially considering gun owners surveyed were nearly twice as likely as non-gun owners to let their children play with toy guns, safe storage of firearms in homes where children play is critical.”

Even police officers can get confused! The Washington Post reported that from 2015 to 2016, law enforcement members shot and killed 86 people when they mistook an ultra-real-looking toy weapons and non-functioning replicas for the real gun. 

“Are [children] going to be more likely to come across a real gun and then inappropriately handle it,” Fraser Doh asked, “or are they more likely to be mistaken as someone who has a harmful weapon when it actually is not?”

During her presentation, Fraser Doh revealed that her son asked for a paintball gun and she immediately thought about the 12-year-old boy from Cleveland, Ohio, who was killed by police officers when they mistook his marker for a real weapon. “To be very blunt, I am African-American, my son is an African-American male, and I said ‘You know, I don’t think this is a safe toy for you to play with and I feel we should make a smarter choice,’” Fraser Doh said. 

With all these in mind, we all can agree on the importance of explaining our kids that whenever they come across with a gun, they should immediately notify an adult. Very Well Family suggests that caregivers should quiz the minor with questions like “What would you do if you saw a gun on a table at your friend’s house?” adding that if it’s correctly answered we should offer praise. 

Adolescents should also be part of the conversation. It is not a secret that the United States is suffering from a mass shooting epidemic. A situation that has the whole nation alert — paranoiac if you will — and unfortunately always expecting the news of a tragedy because the government supports and protects the NRA as if it is part of the Wonders of the World. 

TV shows and video games may trigger certain emotional or physical reaction, but it doesn’t matter how obvious we think it is, adults should always explain to them that in real life people don’t have multiple lives and when shot they don’t get up and keep walking. 

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Teenagers can be impulsive, can be dealing with bullying at school or neighborhood, they also have heartbreaks, frustrations, and more, parents should talk with them about gun violence in schools. Education, self love and respect for others’ lives should start at home. A good foundation will build a conscious mind, and like previously, Very Well Family suggests to caregivers asking questions like, “Do kids at school talk about guns?” or “Do you think any of your friends have ever carried a gun?”

The Trace reported that in 2018, there were 97 shooting incidents at K-12 schools in the U.S., more than any other year on record. As of August 31, 2019, 297 mass shootings at schools, movie theaters, bars, concerts, festivals, stores, and churches have occurred in 2019 killing 335 and injuring 1,219 people for a total of 1,554 victims. Since Sandy Hook massacre there have been at least 2,181 mass shootings. 

Guiding them on what to do in case they see, read or hear comments about others students bringing guns to schools, or if he or she are the ones thinking about it, can save lives. This type of conversation is not easy, but it’s necessary to protect your child. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from gun violence trauma the American Counseling Association offers an array of free resources to assist anyone in need of support.