Talking to Young Children about Guns
Fifteen-year old Saylor was accidentally killed the evening of May 26 in Spiro, Ok. by her much younger sibling. Saylor, who was a close friend of my relative, never saw the gun go off. Her mom had just bought it for protection and her sister was curious. The only bullet in the chamber lodged in Jodie’s head and ended her life.
This tragedy comes one day after I went to the movies and began grappling anew with how many children under 11-years-old were there to see a movie filled with more guns and gun-related deaths than their pudgy-baby fingers and toes could count. I wondered how many parents went home and spoke to their kids about guns, its glorification and implications. Then this happened.
The last text Jodie sent to my relative read, “I’m don’t ever want a gun, someone could get hurt.”
In just the last year alone, several children across the country have gotten a hold of guns and killed playmates, relatives and siblings. Just recently, a five-year old Kentucky boy killed his two-year-old sister with a gun he’d been given as a birthday present. The weapon was a .22 caliber gun that specifically targeted “youth shooters.”
For the most part, military children unequivocally comprehend that their parent(s) use weapons in their jobs, that it may be used in defense of democracy, and that guns are present in their homes.
It’s one thing to introduce guns and teach them how to use it properly and responsibly, but it totally different when it simply forbidden without the appropriate dialogue (and training) that should accompany it. Making it prohibited also makes it desirable.
Not many five-year-olds really comprehend that once fired, their playmate will not get up like an actor in a movie.
We as military families by our very definition owe it to our kids to develop a plan on how to talk to them about something that may be a part of their lives. Regardless of whether it’s in our homes or not – it could be in their friend’s home instead. We must have dialogue with our teenagers as well (and not just younger children) about what it represents in our home, lives, jobs, and in social media.
Instead of instilling fear and avoiding the hard conversations, practice what needs to be said and be proactive. Discuss the parts of a gun, its operation, safety, proper use and restraints in an age-appropriate manner. Discuss more, discuss something different, discuss it all, but talk to them about it. And when you’re done, be sure your actions mirror your words with the scope of protection (i.e. trigger locks, storage and access). Gun safety isn’t just a one-time conversation or class; it’s a continuous effort until children understand the ramifications.
Many homes have guns in them by choice, but military families many not always have that luxury. It’s here to stay just as the Internet and Facebook, and we have to help them understand cause and effect, and right from wrong. Gun discussions should be up there with the “birds and the bees” talk, with talks about drinking, drugs and bullyiny … it’s that important in the world we live in today.