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If your children are old enough to show an interest in toy guns, it’s probably time to start teaching them gun safety.

Just the thought of teaching your kids gun safety in today’s world causes many parents to shift into absolute terror mode. This isn’t necessarily the best way to approach the subject. It’s a complex and debatable area in modern society, but parents — no matter how they feel about guns — shouldn’t just push it aside.

Even if you don’t like firearms or have one in your home the odds are very good that your child may come in contact with one at some time. At least 60 percent of households in the U.S. have guns, and I suspect these figures are very conservative.

I was in a store the other day on my way home from teaching a class. In the sporting goods area, I encountered a young father with his son. I noticed the young boy had a toy pistol in his hand and was actually pretending to shoot his Dad, then me next. The airsoft pistol the boy had was an exact copy of the Glock I carry on my hip.

I’m a firearms instructor, so of course that rubs me wrong. And before that, I spent a lot of my life with guns being pointed at me. It’s something you never get comfortable with. So carefully, and in a light and friendly manner, I struck up a conversation with Dad.

We had quite a talk, and I’ll even call it a lesson about guns and gun safety. We covered a lot of ground in a fairly short time, and I think Dad had his eyes opened up about kids and guns, and the responsibility every parent must accept in today’s world. Parents who accept the responsibility to learn, practice and teach gun safety rules will ensure their child’s safety to a much greater extent than those who do not.

Just last week in a county near us, a child shot another while playing with a pistol that was left where it should not have been. This child survived, but that was sheer luck. Many do not. In this case, the news media said charges are pending, as they should be – but none of those involved will ever be the same.

This kind of thing is seen all too often, and the saddest part is that it doesn’t need to happen. Gun safety is not hard to master. They are basically pretty simple machines — but they are also very unforgiving when not handled properly.

In any home where guns are kept, the safety a child has to rest squarely on the responsible adults. But it’s also critically important that the child knows what to do if he encounters a firearm anywhere.

Although there is really no certain age to talk with a child about gun safety, a good time to introduce the subject is the first time he shows an interest in firearms, even if it’s just toy pistols or rifles. Talking honestly and openly about gun safety with the child is usually far more effective than the old, “If I catch you messing with a gun, I’m gonna give you a whooping you won’t soon forget.” These kind of threats may even stimulate a kid to succumb to natural curiosity to investigate further.

As with any lesson on safety, explaining the rules and cautions and answering the child’s questions help to remove the mystery (and therefore the appeal) surrounding guns. Make sure the child understands that the rules apply to everyone, and that includes not showing the guns to visitors. Hopefully this important point will keep away any thoughts of being pressured into showing a gun to a friend. This is what caused the accident last week.

Another important point, especially with very young children, is to discuss gun use on television or video games as opposed to gun use in real life. Guns are often handled carelessly in movies or TV or games. Depending on your viewing habits, children may see movie characters shot and killed with great frequency.

When a young child sees that same actor appear in another movie or game, confusion between entertainment and real life may very well result. It very well could be a bad mistake to assume that a young child knows the difference between being killed on TV and in reality.

A good rule to follow would be to use toy guns to start explaining or demonstrating safe gun handling. As soon as you feel the child is old enough to understand the basic rules, teach them. Always instruct them if they come in contact with a gun: Stop, don’t touch, leave the area, tell a responsible adult.

Maybe you think your kid is mature enough and smart enough to learn the basics of shooting. Maybe she’s asking to go to the range with you. Where do you go from here? Look for my next column on what’s available to teach youngsters the proper way to start enjoying the shooting sports safely. Many programs are available to them, but we’ll get to that next time.

To get a head start on it, don’t forget at J&J Gun Shop we do “kids night” on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. Just show up with the little ones and we’ll take it from there. We teach basic safety with .22 rifles, one-on-one with an instructor, and the kids have lots of safe fun shooting. It’s a good first step. For more information on this, call J&J anytime or call me on my cell.

Until next time, happy holidays and safe shooting!

Billy Carl is an NRA-certified firearms instructor and is available for individual instruction in firearms safety and concealed carry classes. Contact him at 941-769-0767 or through J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.

Billy Carl is an NRA-certified firearms instructor and is available for individual instruction in firearms safety and concealed carry classes. Contact him at 941-769-0767 or through J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.

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