By Uli Gebhard, Suarez International Staff Instructor Los Angeles
Three Generations on the range
I know that this comment is going to come up in this context: How dare you exposing innocent children to guns! Well, let's talk about this statement for a minute or actually seven minutes since this is the average response time in my hometown to a 911 call. That is, if you have the opportunity to make that call.
Just a couple of weeks ago Sarah McKinley shot a man that tried to force his way into her home. She had already called 911 but the police was still several minutes out when the operator told her to do what you have to do to protect your baby.
Just two days earlier a 14-year old North Carolina boy used a shotgun to protect himself and his 17-year old sister from several home invaders.
These a admittedly extreme scenarios, but in both cases the use of a firearm saved the family from harm. The police officers arrived on scene to late to help. I have the following question for those who are appalled at the thought of kids being introduced to firearms: Can you reliably fight an armed assailant off with your bare hands for seven minutes? If yes please contact me I'd like to learn what you are doing.
A firearm paired with the knowledge, skills and willingness to use it efficiently levels the playing field. Every parent should have this type of preparation to keep his or her family safe!
There are obviously two aspects to this topic being an armed parent and introducing your children to firearms and marksmanship.
Childproofing the Armory
I had firearms long before my wife and I got married and long before our first son was born. How do you handle being armed and raising a family? Little kids and guns do not mix as long as junior or the little princess is too young to understand the dangers of a firearm, the best approach is to keep the weapon either on your person or under lock and key. The huge gun safe with the family armory will likely take very long to access due to location or locking mechanism. Small quick-access safes are a good solution to keep your defensive handguns ready. Main differences are the lock systems:
- Mechanical Push-Button Combination locks are independent of batteries and virtually maintenancefree. The lock can be easily reset in case you mess up the entry of the combination. However it will not tell you if the lock has been tampered with.
- Electronic Push-Button Combination locks require batteries and may lock you out or mandate a delay in case the combination was entered incorrectly several times in a row. The lock provides feedback in case someone tried unsuccessfully entering combinations.
- Biometric Lock fingerprint reading electronics in particular have been on the market for several years. I have no personal experience with them, however, the feedback on the first models was that the electronics were set to err on the side of caution and did not always unlock even if the correct finger was on the reader. Dirt, moisture, scratches or any number of things seem to have led to false non-releases. I'm not sure how well these systems work today, however, I'd be hesitant to trust my life to some potentially quirky electronics.
The quick-access safes can also be mounted or secured inside a car. This can be helpful if you want to keep a firearm with you but may have to go visit one of the many places such as a post office or other federal building that will not permit carrying a firearm on your person.
OK so you either carry your gun, or you have it in a quick-access safe. An additional measure of safety that you may want to consider is keeping the chamber of your semi-auto empty when it's not in your holster. A three-year old can press the trigger on a Glock, as one former LAPD-officer painfully found out, but a young child does not have the strength to rack the slide.
Separating young children and guns is a good first step to being an armed parent. One question that arises here is how to introduce the kids to the families defensive hardware.
One thing that I've seen with most families is that they do not hide the fact that they have firearms from their children. The one family that did hide the existence of their guns is currently struggling to find a way of introducing this topic to their son.
Gunproofing Your Kids
Keystone Crickett (front) and Henry .22 (back) make great rifles for young shooters
Our kids have always known that we have firearms. They also knew right from the beginning that they are tools to keep us safe and that those tools only work if they are not known to anybody outside the family. I've read a lot of posts on online forums where armed parents were concerned that their kids or kids of their friends will eventually bump into their hardware and wonder what that hard thing on the belt is. Can you prevent things like this? Most likely not. But you can prepare for it: Most of us log a lot of defensive gear around and many items are more benign than our RMR Glocks. I've reached under my shirt once or twice to pull my Cold Steel Recon out and let the kid know that G10 grip scales will make for a hard bump. More than once my own kids had a knowing smile on their face when that happened.
I can only speak for those families that I know: all of them teach their kids from the beginning that guns are dangerous if they are not handled properly. Thus, whenever the youngster wants to take a look at the firearm it is done after going through all of the safety procedures and rules together. To me it is amazing how short-lived a kids interest a firearm can be in this context. My younger son wanted to see my AR as I came home from teaching a class. We went through the safety rules, cleared the gun, pointed it in a safe direction, he peeked through the sights without even having the hand fully on the pistol grip, mumbled Thanks, Dad and was gone in a flash...
How old does a boy or girl have to be to be safety conscientious around a firearm? It's not so much a question of age as of maturity. Some kids may grasp that concept as early as four, others may be seven. Regardless of their age, realize one thing: Your children look very closely at what you are doing and will pick up your habits.
If you choose to make the commitment to be armed to protect your family, you also make a commitment to setting a good example for your children every time you handle a gun. If you bend or break the rules they will consider this OK and follow your lead. On the positive side, if you handle your gun carefully and responsibly every time you pick it up, you kids will catch on to that. You may find that your seven-year-old is the only kid on a birthday party that keeps the finger off the trigger of the soaker gun while they are darting across the backyard. Kids take pride in what they learn and I can only encourage you to give them lots of positive feedback when they show awareness for the safety rules. It can be as simple as them picking up your Red ASP Training gun showing off that they know where the safe direction is and that they know to keep the finger off the trigger.
Will kids still play with toy guns? Most likely yes but they have to be able to distinguish between the cops and robbers games with their friends and the seriousness of a real firearm. A point that has always been very important to me is the role of video-games, especially for pre-teen kids. First-role shooter games emphasize that it's OK to blow people up for fun this is the wrong message if you want to teach your son or daughter at the same time that a firearm is a dangerous but useful tool. Consequently our kids do not get to play those games, neither at home, where we simply don't have them, or at their friends houses where we let the parents know that it's not OK for our kids to be around those games. We've made nothing but positive experiences with the way our kids handle the firearms in the household. More about that later.
Overall the key points were for our family and for the vast majority of armed families that we know, that defensive weapons were never a secret to the youngsters but that they knew not to reveal these assets to anyone outside the family. Also, all those families raised their kids with an awareness of firearm safety.
In all of these families the kids eventually became interested in shooting a firearm. That of course, opened a whole new chapter for them and their parents.