Keeping Kids Safe in a Home with Guns

We’ve probably all heard the tragic stories of children getting their hands on guns and the nightmare scenarios that result from that. This is no joke. Things can turn very badly very quickly if your guns aren’t treated with the respect they deserve.

But all of this can be avoided!

There are countless families who have successfully maintained guns at home safely, securely yet ready when needed. And that’s what we’re talking about today.

Here are some tried and true (and hopefully simple) pieces of wisdom and a little equipment to make your home a safe yet gun-friendly zone.

Your Children Will Find Your Guns

The question isn’t “if” they find out where the guns are, but “when” because childhood is a perpetual treasure hunt and that won’t stop until they move away.

When I was growing up my dad had a gun safe in his closet, and, no joke, I looked for the key to his safe for years. He’d go out of town and that’s when it was game on. “Dad’s gone. Let’s pick up where I left off looking for that key.”

You may think, “Oh, my angel would never … ” Don’t fall prey to that. Everyone thinks, “My kids would never.” Or maybe you think that you’ll be able to hide your guns in a place where your kids won’t find it. Don’t be naive. They will.

It happens all the time, and the parents are shocked when the inevitable tragedy happens.

I knew every nook and cranny of my house growing up, and your kids will do the exact same thing, whether you agree with me or not. It’s not worth the risk. So don’t think you can hide guns where they won’t find them.

Instead, children need to have their mindset adjusted. In some ways you have to kill their unhealthy curiosity about guns and give them a healthy knowledge and respect for them.

Don’t Make Your Guns Forbidden Fruit

It’s very dangerous but very common for grownups to unintentionally create a mystique and intrigue around guns by making them a big mystery and telling the kids not to touch them. This just turns guns into forbidden fruit. Instead, let your kids know that they can see the guns anytime you’re available to show them. You want them to become familiar with guns, but only under your safe supervision.

Let them know: “Hey, guns are dangerous, and we have them because we love you and we want to protect you against bad people. But they’re very, very dangerous. Anytime you ever want to see daddy’s gun or mommy’s gun, all you have to do is ask and the answer is yes.”

Teach Kids the Sing Along Song

There’s a song a lot of gun-owning parents teach their kids so the little ones know what to do if they see a gun—at their own house or anyone’s house. You can see Mrs. Poet sing it in the video, but the words are simply “Stop. Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown up.”

This rule obviously applies at your own home, but it’s also helpful for the kids when they’re at others’ homes where guns reside.

Show Them the Real Danger

Children of any age (this includes some adults, too) should never think of guns as toys.

When our kids were really young–maybe 3 and 5–we took them on a trip to Tennessee. I decided to spend some time shooting and we all went out there together. What my kids didn’t know is that I had planted some tannerite down range so that I could imprint on their minds a healthy respect for the deadly power of guns.

As you might have predicted, this was a really big teaching moment when I fired a round from my AR and then a split second later they heard a massive explosion. This big bang associated with the rifle taught them the invaluable truth that guns are always bigger and more dangerous and scary than you expected or planned. At that age we wanted them to be afraid of them in a healthy way so that later they would be able to handle them with knowledge and respect.

Stage Guns with Caution

If you have a 1-year-old who isn’t going to be able to climb the kitchen cabinets and get daddy’s AR-15, then you might be safe staging your guns up high out of reach in “airplane mode.” Actually it’s called “aircraft loading.” This means you might have a full magazine but nothing in the chamber.

For most of us, though, this may not be the best option. Especially if you have a 5-year-old who is into absolutely everything. Or maybe your kids are well-trained about firearms, but they’re friends are not. Or maybe your well-trained kid gives into peer pressure and gets the gun out for his friends.

So it’s not if you stage, but how you stage. Safely staging for your family may mean employing a quick-access gun box or other piece of equipment.

Teach Kids the Universal Firearms Safety Rules

For some of you this may seem like common sense, but teaching kids a healthy respect for guns should include a healthy understanding of how to handle guns safely. Of course this should include some type of high-quality training, but at the very least they should know these universal rules:

  • Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re going to shoot.
  • Do not point the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
  • Always know what’s beyond your target.

Do Safety Audits Often

Every family is different, and every child is different. As children get older, the factors you need to consider will likely change in terms of how you safely maintain weapons in your home. So it’s important to do assessments and make adjustments. Here are some of the factors to consider when determining how to keep firearms safely:

  • Age
  • Gender (Yes. This is a factor.)
  • Temperament
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Emotional/Mental Health

Tools for Locking Your Guns Up at Home

I don’t like cable locks. If you’re displaying guns at a gun show, cable locks might do the trick. But for home defense, they’re just not realistic. The little keys get lost, and you don’t want to go searching for little keys in the dark when you need your gun.

Touch safes are good, quick options. Some of these small safes will open with a fingerprint or a real quick access code so you can quickly pop it open and rock and roll with your gun.

On-gun locking devices. A chamber lock is potentially a good option that allows you to keep your gun under a bed or in some other close location without having to box it up, which is especially useful when it comes to something like an AR-15. These devices require a code of sorts to take them off, so they’re fairly secure and quick to disengage.

Gun safes. And of course there’s the tried and true gun safe where you can maintain your arsenal in a safe and secure manner while also keeping equipment accessible when you need it.

As always, we highly recommend that whatever you choose to do in protecting your family,  you acquire the skills and safety protocols through high-quality training.

For more on home defense, preparedness, tactics, and firearms – check out the WPS Field Guide here.