Many preppers exercise their 2nd Amendment right to own firearms, I am one of them. Between myself and my family we have, well, a fair number of firearms. Growing up in the south I learned to operate a firearm, albeit without formal instruction, at an early age. When my son reached the age of 9, I felt it was time to introduce him to firearms.
Luckily my son is a lot like his old man, a natural shooter. His first 3 live fire shots from a.22 rifle resulted in dropped targets at 25, 35 and 50 meters, (bowling pin targets), and his time on target from putting the rifle to his shoulder, acquiring his targets and knocking down the last pin was roughly 4 seconds. Not bad for the first shots in his life.
Although I was extremely proud of his shooting ability, the thing that really impressed me was the respect he showed the firearm, and the care he took to ensure he was operating it safely, in accordance with what I had taught him. I was concerned with all of the television shows and movies showing actors waving guns around like crazy that he would take this part of his lessons lightly and would require a few swift reminders, I was wrong.
I started my son’s gun safety lessons when he was about 6 years old and joined the Cub Scouts. I was his Den Leader and I took every opportunity to work with the kids on different aspects of personal safety. Here is a list of the things we covered at that age:
- All guns should be treated as if they are loaded
- Do not approach any gun without an adult present
- If you see a gun, find an adult and let them know
- If you see a gun unsecured at a friend’s home, ask an adult to secure the weapon
- If no one is available or willing to secure a weapon, leave the area immediately and let your parents know
- Do not tell your friends if your parents have a gun in the home
- NEVER touch a gun without an adult’s consent and supervision
I would often quiz the boys on these rules, trying to trip them up with questions such as “If I check my gun and say it is not loaded, then hand it to you, is it loaded?” They would usually answer “No, it’s not loaded” and I would point out that unless they had checked the weapon themselves, they could not be sure it was not loaded. I spoke at length to the parent’s in my den and ensured that all of them agreed with the lessons before I taught them. Although some had much more lax rules in their own homes, they never objected and thought the rules were well conceived.
The biggest trick is to teach respect of firearms without introducing fear of them. Although guns are dangerous and can kill, the chances of being killed or injured by a weapon that no one is touching are pretty much non-existent. It is in misuse and carelessness of handling weapons that accidents happen.
In regards to the Cub Scouts I did not provide any further weapons safety instruction. I did however continue with my son’s instruction. I purchased a CO2 pistol with holster and taught him all of the components of the weapon, their names and their function. Then I instructed him on cleaning the weapon (not much there since it was CO2). Finally I instructed him on how to use the weapon, including target acquisition, drawing the weapon, aiming the weapon, firing and returning the weapon to the holster. We worked on when to safe and unsafe the weapon and how to clear the weapon after firing it.
After he had mastered all of these skills I took him outside and let him fire the CO2 pistol. That’s right, he knew every aspect before he ever put a pellet down range. Total time of instruction? Roughly 2 hours.
When I took my son to fire a real firearm we handled things much the same way. He was subjected to an intensive safety course covering how to properly approach and manipulate each of the weapons he was going to fire, the components of each weapon and their function, and how to clear the weapon after firing. As he already had a working knowledge of many of these things from previous instruction, the total instruction time was roughly 1.25 hours.
All in all we focused on teaching respect for firearms in the beginning and maintained that mantra throughout his instruction. My son is as careful now with his pellet pistol as he is when he puts the stock of an AR-15 up to his shoulder.