Children and guns

This is a bit off-topic, but I’m wondering at what age you all exposed your children to firearms? I.e. you clean them around the kids when they are 7, but only take them shooting when they are 10. From an early age you can teach them the rules of firearm safety even with toy guns.

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Seems perfect for a new topic.

My 7-yo has shot my 357 revolver and a .22, and my 12-yo has shot those and my 9mm.

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In the M. household, the rule is that any time a kid wants to see or handle a gun, all he has to do is ask, at basically any age. This reduces a lot of the mystery out of guns and reduces the temptation for them to try to get their hands on the guns on their own. Normally reviewing guns at the gun safe is fairly boring and kids outgrow it quickly.

One of my kids spent a summer asking to review guns about once per week. We live in an extremely hot climate and the gun safe was located in an extremely hot part of the house that we lived in at that time. The sweat would be dripping off me as we looked at, and he handled, the guns he wanted to see. It was challenging to say “yes” in those times, but I did it anyway.

These trips to the gun safe are an excellent opportunity to review the four laws of gun safety, as are places like the dinner table, car rides, etc.

Shooting is a rite of passage that comes on or around the sixth birthday. The four laws of gun safety will be reviewed again, and kids will usually be started on .22 caliber rifles and pistols. The first trip is always focused on safe gun handling and having an enjoyable time. Subsequent trips can work on marksmanship. I’m not sure all children are ready to handle firearms on their sixth birthdays, but all of mine have been so far. Though I did have to tell one that I wasn’t going to take him shooting if he couldn’t wipe his own rear end. Lo and behold, he actually could do it.

And yes, toy guns are another good opportunity to teach muzzle discipline and trigger discipline.


The problem I have with toy guns and safety rules is that you can’t follow the rules and have the toys be fun. Water guns, nerf guns, cap guns, whatever, aren’t we supposed to point them at people?

I asked a friend who had a lot of guns and a lot of kids who all shot his guns whether he had rules about the toy guns, and he said no. His take was that kids must know the difference between a real gun and a toy gun, and not to worry about what they do with toy guns.


In our house, it’s not so much that they’re not supposed to point toy guns at people, but that they are supposed to point them with intent. If you’re not intending to shoot that Nerf gun at someone, don’t point it at him.

And trigger discipline should always be enforced on anything gun-shaped. Trigger discipline is about building the habit to keep the finger off the trigger until the sights are on target and you are ready to fire. That is equally doable with toy guns, air guns and real guns. Build the habit that unless you’re actively pressing the trigger, just line your finger up on the frame of the gun.

Muzzle discipline does get enforced less rigorously than trigger discipline.


So it seems like you introduce at 6. Do you let the kids clean the guns whenever before then, or is any contact for when they are 6.

I don’t spend a lot of time cleaning guns, but I normally do it when my younger kids are asleep just because I don’t want the little ones underfoot while I’m trying to accomplish a task. I don’t think any of my younger kids would be interested in that as a task, and I might be concerned about things like hazardous solvents or small (important) pieces parts walking away. I wouldn’t be opposed to it, it’s jut not something we’ve done.

And I do want to emphasize that they can handle guns any time they want to starting at any age. If my two year old were to formulate the sentence “look at guns,” I’d let him do so under my close supervision. I think most of them started reviewing guns around ages three or four.

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It’s basically ditto to everything John M. said at our house, with exception that I wouldn’t say I allow them to handle guns at any age they want. I’d say something more like, as soon as they are mature enough to begin to grasp what a gun actually is and what it can do, then I will begin introducing them.

Maybe your two year old is more mature than mine. :slight_smile:

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Bingo. The idea of teaching gun safety is not to instill that we would never point a gun at a person. It’s that we will only ever do so with deliberate intent.

Ensuring that we impart to them a sense of what constitutes righteous intent then becomes its own separate, but related endeavor.

I don’t think I’ve had a kid express any interest that young. I’d guess age three and maybe a late three has been the earliest. Maybe it’s been four.

That time is under very close supervision with lots of correction of muzzle discipline and trigger discipline. I also emphasize that guns are serious tools and should be treated seriously. (The distinction between tools and toys is a common one in our house.) If I got a sense that a child was being willfully frivolous with the guns or was rejecting my safety instructions, then the guns would be put away until a more suitable time. As it has happened, all of my kids have been ready when they’ve shown interest.

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I introduced my kids to all my guns, at around age two. My 10 month old…not yet. They aren’t competent with them and I don’t expect them to be. They don’t have free reign. But they also understand that guns are daddies tools for keeping them safe. This was what I instilled very early on.

Thanks for following up on this thread, Ken, I’ve been meaning to circle back. I was carrying a rifle through the house last weekend and my two year-old saw it. He pointed and said “gun,” so I sat down and showed it to him. He’s too small to hold it, but I told him it was a real gun, and let him touch the barrel and look through the scope. I left the gun safety lesson at pointing at the trigger and telling him not to touch it. I think the rest of the rules are too abstract for a two year-old, but he can learn some vocabulary and he understands “don’t touch.”