For parents, the desire to protect their children from the horrible harm home invading criminals can inflict is a good reason to own a gun. However having children, especially small children, means that extra care must be taken to ensure that children aren’t harmed by guns. This article addresses my suggestions in this area:
The presence of children increases the need to own a gun for self defense
Those that have children are often understandably concerned about their children being harmed by criminals. For example, a few miles away from where I live, a criminal invaded the home of an unarmed family. The criminal forced the family to remove their clothes, locked the parents and 7 year old daughter in one room, and sexually assaulted the 10 year old daughter in another room. Had the parents had a gun for self defense, these horrible events may have been averted. Parents have a duty, perhaps the highest duty in the world, to protect their children – and I generally see gun ownership as a necessary part of discharging that duty.
Additional gun safety concerns when children are present
The presence of children in the home poses additional gun safety concerns. First, there is the concern that the children or their friends could gain access to the guns and shoot themselves or another person. Second, there is the concern that in the process of shooting in self defense, children could end up in their parent’s line of sight and be unintentionally shot.
Suggestions for keeping guns safe from children yet accessible for self defense
A gun that is not accessible is not useful for self defense, and a gun left lying around is a danger to children. A balance must therefore be struck between having a gun locked up and away from children, yet quickly accessible to its owner. To strike that balance, I would suggest keeping a gun safe in the master bedroom, so that the self defense gun(s) can quickly accessed at night, while being kept locked up and away from children. The guns locked in the safe should be stored in a safe yet read to use manner. A large gun safe, suitable for storing a shotgun, could be mounted in a closet (a cheap option) or in the wall (more expensive). Smaller gun safes, suitable for storing a handgun, can be mounted almost everywhere (and should always be bolted down to prevent theft) Those with larger houses could also keep a similar gun safe on a lower level of the home, so that a gun is never too far to reach should a criminal break in while the occupants are downstairs.
As to the safe, there are a few options:
1. A biometric safe – Such a safe will have a fingerprint scanning lock, which allows the safe to be opened in just a couple of seconds. Such safes cost more than safes with combination or keypad locks (especially for large safes), but can provide great peace of mind.
2. A keypad safe – Although punching numbers into a safe takes longer than using a fingerprint scanner, such safes are usually more affordable. Also, keypad technology tends to be more reliable than its biometric equivalent, although either option should be reliable enough.
3. A combination safe – Such a safe can take 30 seconds to open, or longer while under stress, so I would recommend a safe with a biometric or keypad lock instead.
4. Leaving the gun “hidden” somewhere – I don’t consider this to be a good option. Children are inquisitive, and will tend to find a hidden gun, with tragic results.
Suggestions for avoiding unintentional shootings during a home invasion
A home invasion tends to cause panic and confusion. This can be a particular problem with children, who may not fully understand what to do if not instructed in advance. For that reason, I would suggest that occupants of the home, including children, be instructed to quickly come to the master bedroom during a home invasion. This will allow the home owner(s) to protect their children from the home invader, and to shoot at home invaders without worry of striking their own children.
Other general suggestions regarding children and guns
I would suggest teaching young children to never touch a gun on their own, and to go and find an adult should they or a friend ever encounter a gun. This can help prevent tragedy should a child be over at a friend’s house and encounter a gun that was negligently left lying around. As children get older, teach them the basics of gun safety, and allowing them to handle their parents’ unloaded guns under close supervision. Once they are mature enough to responsibly handle a gun, teach them to shoot under close supervision. Doing so will help prevent the unhealthy fascination that accompanies “forbidden fruit”, while simultaneously allowing children to enjoy a great hobby. (The United States Department of Justice found that “boys who own legal firearms have much lower rates of delinquency and drug use and are even slightly less delinquent than non-owners of guns.”) Also, that skill with firearms may allow the children to defend themselves as adults, should the need arise.
Disclaimer: This article addresses my general thoughts on gun safety and self defense with children in the home, and is provided only as a helping suggestion. Your situation, needs, and concerns may vary. The safety and security of your home and your family is ultimately your responsibility, rather than the responsibility of this author or the police.
An excellent book that addresses the issue of guns in the home with small children is “Gunproofing Your Children” by Massad Ayoob. The premise behind the book is that there is no possible way to childproof your guns, so the better thing to do is what the title suggests. Just as you wouldn’t be adequately safeguarding your children against the possibility of drowning by admonishing them to “stay away from water,” you’re not adequately safeguarding your children against negligent use of guns by telling them “Stay away from daddy’s guns!” Eventually, just as a child will one day find themselves at a swimming pool, or lake, or the beach without adult supervision, they might eventually face a situation where there’s a loaded gun and no adult supervision.
In both cases, the solution is better education for the child. You teach a child to swim and the basics of water safety, and you teach a child the basics of gun safety, and when they’re old enough, the basics of gun handling as well. Soon enough, you have a kid that knows how to handle themselves in what hitherto could have been dangerous situations.
FWIW – we tried a little drill on my (then) 3-year old by leaving my (unloaded) revolver lying on the floor where he would come across it. As my wife and I watched surreptitiously, we saw our little one stand over the gun, pondering it for several seconds, as though the wheels in his mind were turning “OH! There was something I was supposed to do in this situation!” A few seconds later, he commendably leaves the gun alone and goes running to our bedroom shouting “DADEEEE! There’s a gun on the floor!!!” Hahaha. One of the prouder moments of my life.
The best thing to do is have some type of safe for your gun so that your kids can never get into it, but at the same time you have to make sure that the safe is easy for you to access so you can protect your family as soon as possible when a bad guy shows up at your home.
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