Babies in a house with guns

My husband and I both grew up in houses with guns. I have been a gun owner since I was about 12 years old. We have guns in our house. My husband uses firearms for his job and we are both hunters. We also have guns on hand in case we ever have a home invasion, as terrifying as that is to envision.

As parents, we have had to outline a sort of “plan” for how we would deal with having children and firearms in our house and what our future looks like regarding both of them.

  • Guns are off limits to kids. Period. There is no touching of a gun, playing with a real gun, anything until after our children begin to have a grasp of the finality of death. Psychologists say that around 6 years old (on average) is when children really start to understand death. Until sometime after they realize that a gun can cause death, they will not touch one.
  • Hunter safety education is a must. I was given a .22 caliber single shot rifle for Christmas by my uncle and my parents put it up until after I had enrolled in and passed a hunter safety education course. If your child is ever going to handle a firearm, even if you don’t hunt, I highly recommend this safety course. The things that I learned in the class are imprinted in my brain (never point a gun in an unsafe direction, treat every firearm as if it is loaded, never put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to fire the gun, etc.) and remain part of my safety training to this day. You can find the course curriculum online, but I think that a real life classroom and hands-on approach is a much better way to handle life and death training.
  • Guns are kept locked in a gun safe. Our gun safe has a combination on it. We will need to change the combination every so often, but this is an absolute for us. Guns will remain out of a child’s reach. I believe in discipline and I believe that your kids should listen when you tell them no, but the reality is that sometimes kids deliberately disobey their parents (duh) and this is not something I am willing to risk.
  • When they are old enough… gulp. This one scares me as a mom. I know that my kids will have guns someday. I know that day will come sooner than I am ready for. My goal is to teach them how to safely use a gun, to treat every gun with respect, and to realize that even though a gun is a tool, it is a potentially deadly one. We will have a zero tolerance policy for safety violations of any sort and we will work our way up to “real guns.”

I realize that a lot of you can’t comprehend how I would ever let my kids have a gun, and I understand exactly where you are coming from. This is a part of our families’ heritage. This is who we are. We are gun-toting, don’t-tread-on-me, hunting, self-sufficient, gardening country people who take great pride in our survival skills. I fully expect to cook a skillet full of potatoes and squirrels that Clara and Cormac have brought home after a day out with their dad.

I do not take this decision lightly. When I was in middle school, one of my schoolmates was accidentally shot and killed by his best friend while they were out rabbit hunting. His name was Robert and we rode the school bus together for years. His best friend was in the backseat of a car and discharged his .22 caliber pistol through the seat and into Robert’s ribcage. It never exited him and caused severe internal damage. A tiny piece of lead took Robert’s life. His best friend carries that burden every single day.

That was my first experience with the death of someone I knew. It has forever shaped how I view guns and while I mourn the loss of 14-year-old Robert’s life, I am thankful that I knew at a young age how powerful that tiny piece of lead could be. It has shaped who I am, both as a girl taking a hunter safety education course and as a mother, facing the decision of how to protect my children and let them become skilled in how to protect and provide for themselves.

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  1. kelly v -  December 18, 2012 - 12:59 pm

    We plan the exact same method. Our guns are locked up and the only time Salem saw them is when we bought them.

  2. Amber -  December 18, 2012 - 1:19 pm

    We feel the same way at our house. Thank you for writing this so I am better able to explain to people who ask me.

  3. Cindy -  December 18, 2012 - 2:35 pm

    I did not grow up around guns and never even saw a real one until my 22 yr old decided she liked clay shooting with her boyfriend and they had made several trips to the shooting range, I finally went with them. Thank you for insight on how you handle gun saftety with children because she has already told me they will have guns in the house when they have children and it scares the bejeebers out of me.

  4. Erin -  December 18, 2012 - 4:16 pm

    This post was a great read for me. Most Canadians have guns for the same reasons as you. Hunting and survival, although the survival is often from a bear or cougar rather than a person but the risk is still there. Many families I know had guns and the exact same kinds of rules in place. Education is so important.

  5. Allison -  December 18, 2012 - 9:50 pm

    Perfectly said. While I don’t own any guns, yet, I am experienced with them. Clay, skeet, hunting, but I was taught proper handling and safety by my aunt who is a hunter safety instructor, hunter, and a specialist in teaching women. It’s terrifying to hear of children getting ahold of guns that weren’t properly stored. We recently had to send child protective services to my step daughters’ mother’s home because while getting clean towels down from the bathroom closet they uncovered a handgun. I don’t like to think about what could have happened in that situation.

    Thanks for letting us hear a little about your stance on guns and gun safety.

  6. Christine Thompson -  December 19, 2012 - 9:59 am

    I totally agree! Thanks for this.

  7. Jewrice -  January 1, 2013 - 1:35 am

    Scary! Nancy Lanza probably had the same rules and took the same courses and look at what happened…although, darn it!!! – gun can protect you…but can also kill you. I guess that’s just how life is…sad but true…damn if you do, damn if you don’t.

    • Jessica -  January 1, 2013 - 9:51 am

      Unfortunately, sometimes as a parent our job becomes more complicated than “protect our babies.” Sometimes it means protecting the world from our children, rather than the opposite. What happened to Nancy and the other victims at Newtown was an absolute tragedy. I am infuriated that she is not counted among the victims whose lives were lost that day.

      As parents, as members of society, and as free people, we have to make responsible decisions every single day that may end up affecting us in huge, unbelievable ways. We may not ever know how exactly Nancy’s actions contributed to Adam’s rampage. We can all speculate, but that is all it is. I know that we have close friends who have two sons with autism and the boys are never ever given access to guns. Everyone else in the family shoots and hunts, but the boys don’t. That is their choice as parents, and I absolutely respect it.

      And yes, guns have the power to kill. It is what they are designed for. It’s a very heavy responsibility and one I do not take lightly as a gun owner and parent.

  8. Jamie -  January 3, 2013 - 12:24 pm

    We own guns too for the exact same reasons (well minus it’s part of my husband’s work, but he chooses to carry), and we take all of those precautions as well. Thank you for writing this so that others can see that all gun owners are NOT irresponsible.

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