There are hundreds of firearm injuries and deaths each year in Canada, and sadly, many of these injuries are unintentional. Canada does have gun control legislation in place, but this is not enough to prevent the accidental firing of guns in private households or public spaces -- particularly if children are present. If you are a parent, it's up to you to teach your child about gun safety. Storing and handling guns properly is one side of the coin. However, the first step should be removing the mystery and misconceptions that surround gun use.
Why remove the mystery?
Often, parents attempt to promote gun safety by keeping children as far from household firearms as possible. However, this is not always the best approach. Children, especially boys, have a fascination with these tools, and will see guns in toy form and on television. Their curiosity about what they are and how they work will grow. Therefore, simply telling a child "not to touch" or "stay away from guns" will not always be effective. Instead, it is best to address questions and dispel the myths as early as possible, using some of the following techniques:
- Instead of making guns the forbidden fruit, allow children to view and touch your firearms. Explain what the different pieces of the gun are, and why the gun is kept locked away. Show your children bullets and explain what they do. Whenever you have your gun out, answer questions and reiterate the basic rules of gun safety, like pointing it away from themselves and others and keeping the safety on.
- When children come across a toy gun, take time to show the differences between the toy gun and a real gun. Some parents decide not to allow toy guns, so as to take the "game" attitude out of shooting. Always have a serious tone when discussing firearms so your child understands they are tools that should be handled respectfully.
- Explain how guns used on TV differ from guns in real life. Often actors will shoot pistols or shotguns without experiencing "kick back." Also, main characters in movies often seem invincible from raining gunfire, which may cause children to believe guns are not accurate or it is difficult to injure someone with a firearm. In reality, it is actually very easy to cause injury.
Why should you teach gun safety if you don't have guns in your house?
Even if you don't have guns in the house, you should still take the time to teach your children about guns and how they function in reality. Guns can be carelessly left out or left behind in public places, and if your child-- or another child they are with-- finds the gun and plays with it, injury can result. In this way, removing the mystery will greatly reduce the chances your child will be drawn to play with an unattended firearm. You should also teach your child what to do if they find a gun:
- Stop approaching. Don't get close to get a better look. Keep other friends from approaching as well.
- Do not touch it. Unlike guns kept at home, guns found in the open may or may not be loaded,and they also may or may not be loaded or calibrated correctly. They could go off if simply dropped.
- Leave the area. Some older children may feel like they need to take the gun to adult or stay until help arrives. They should do neither.
- Tell a responsible adult, like a parent or police officer.
Gun safety training can help to save lives -- especially the lives of curious children. Consider taking your child through a Canadian firearms safety course, and take the time to remove the mystique surrounding firearms to prevent unintentional firearm injuries or fatalities.