It happened again.
A father is dead. A teen is in custody. A six-year-old is fighting for his life and a community is in fear after another school shooting.
A 14-year-old killed his father and then drove to an elementary school and shot two little children and a teacher. Normally, the news and my Facebook feed would be blowing up about gun control vs. the Constitution; but a fight between Donald Trump and a former Miss Universe distracts the media right now.
To be honest, I’m sick of the fighting over gun control and Second Amendment rights. It’s usually filled with so many factual errors (like what is and is not an assault rifle), that it’s impossible to have a real discussion because the facts are inaccurate to begin with. But those who want to discuss gun control have at least one valid argument: children should not fear being shot to death at school. Parents should not fear their children being targets at school. The problem is their solution: take guns away from everyone, even law-abiding citizens.
What I’d like to talk about instead is:
Why are children shooting children? What is happening that changes their mental state to drive them to that point? Do we need to have a discussion about the desensitization of human life? Yes. Do we need to discuss a generation of overmedicated children from doctors? Yes. Do we need to discuss the long-term effects of these issues? Yes. Do we need to discuss street crime, gangs and illegal guns? Absolutely. We also NEED to discuss gun safety.
So often, people are focused on knee-jerk legislation to prevent it from happening again, despite the fact that we have lots of laws in place to prevent this and it still hasn’t, and all the new proposed legislation wouldn’t have stopped the previous ones either.
Instead, I’d like to have a heart-to-heart conversation with parents: where do you leave your guns? You have a right to own them (unless you’ve lost that right). I, too, own guns. I, too, believe in the Second Amendment and my right to bear arms and protect my family and myself. I also believe that parents need to be responsible with those rights. Children do not have the right to have those guns. Children should not have access to your guns without your direct supervision.
Can we please talk about how parents need to do a better job of removing access to guns? I’m not blaming law-abiding citizens whose guns are stolen and used in a crime. I’m not blaming citizens or parents whose children commit a crime so heinous they didn’t see it coming. I’m simply pleading with you to be responsible with your firearms. As a mom with children in the home, I do not have my firearms accessible to my children. I do have them accessible, quickly, to me if someone breaks into my home. While I’ve seen some great news stories of kids who staved off a burglar with a shotgun, surely that doesn’t mean that every child needs access to a 9mm or an AR15.
I also want to plead with parents, whether you believe in owning guns or not, to teach your children gun safety. Maybe you hate guns (if you do, you probably are no longer reading this). Maybe you’re one of those parents who thinks you have a right to know which of your neighbors own guns so you don’t allow your children to play over there (although you could just, you know, get to know your neighbor and ask these questions prior to letting your child go rather than trying to force a national list), but what happens if your child finds a gun at the park? What happens if your child encounters one in the school bathroom? Does your child know what to do? Have you taught your child gun safety? Gun safety is EVERY adult’s responsibility who has a child in their care.
So let’s talk about gun safety. Let’s talk about what YOU as an adult can do to limit these horrific and life-changing crimes while the greater, long-term debates continue.
Field and Stream gives some great examples of demystifying guns and teaching children how to respect them. If your child is going to hunt and learn to shoot, spend time with them at the range and teach good gun safety by leading by example. Guns are not toys. Please read this article if you plan to teach your child to hunt and shoot.
Project Child Safe and veteran and shooting sports champion Julie Golob has a GREAT video about speaking to your children about gun safety.
I was surprised at my son’s response when I asked him what he should do if he sees a gun. That’s when I knew that we needed to have the gun talk A LOT more. As Julie says, having this talk every month is NOT too often.
With cartoons and toy guns showing a playful side of guns, it’s important for children to know that real guns are not toys and can end a life forever. The Well Armed Woman talks about how to show children that guns are actually very serious, as well as the noise they make. She actually goes into a significant amount of gun safety so I highly suggest reading her site.
And finally, have a prepared plan with your children. Just as you would tell them what to do in a tornado, earthquake, home fire etc, I talk to my children about what to do and where to hide if they ever think they need to call the police. Do your children know how to call 9-1-1 in case of a medical emergency or a home break-in and where to hide until the police arrive? They should. You can do it without scaring them!
As far as locking up your gun/guns, I really like safes that have a fingerprint sensor but one that requires a code are good, too. Even a cheap lock for $20 is better than nothing.