Gun control is an issue that has made some major headlines lately. With all of the mass killings and new laws in the United States being pushed through legislation, gun ownership is something that nearly every one of us has thought about.
For a lot of families, the number one reason NOT to have a gun in the home is because they also have children in the home. Having a gun obviously leads to the risk of unintentional use that could cause a fatal injury to a family member. And the truth is, that children, especially young ones have no real way to grasp the finality of death and the weapons that cause death. However, all this gun talk leads to the question of whether children should be educated about guns? And truth be told, every outside agency from the NRA to the media, to the American Academy of Pediatrics has differing views on the matter. Some say NOT educating children about guns is irresponsible, while others believe it only leads to violence. At the end of the day, the decision to educate your children about guns and gun safety and gun use – and whether to have a gun in your home is a personal decision. As personal a decision as which church you attend on Sunday or what kind of foods you choose to feed your children.
Of course, it is always important to look at the facts. With all the controversy, it is very difficult to get an accurate depiction of the effect that guns have in violent situations involving children. According to Heidi Cifelli, the manager at the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Gun Safety program gun education is essential. This program currently mandated in all Michigan elementary schools follows a protocol of teaching children in grades K through 6th to ‘stop. don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult,’ when they see a gun
The CDC reports that ‘while fewer kids are bringing guns to school, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of firearms death among children younger than 13 (In the US) remains 25 times that of the other top 25 industrialized nations combined.’
Opponents of gun education in schools feel that the Eddie Eagle program, being proposed in many states across the United States ‘glamorizes guns by making them seem like something you can only do as an adult, like smoking or drinking.’ Those in opposition feel like telling kids NO, and using scare tactics to keep them away from something only heightens the curiosity of small children. And many parents feel the same way, that by having a gun in the home they are only introducing temptation which can have deadly consequences at the end of the day.
One thing that many parents fail to consider, especially those in opposition of educating children about guns is that the parents will not be able to be with their children 24/7. If they never speak to their children about what to do when they see a gun, or teach a child how to use them, what happens when they are at a friend’s house, or see another child with a firearm? Since it is impossible for a parent to control their child’s environment 24/7, 365 days a year many agencies feel that gun education is necessary especially in light of such recent tragic events using firearms.
The Children’s Defense Fund, which is a non-political agency that keeps up with the most recent data as it concerns to violence and kids reports the following:
‘In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740′,one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years. Six times as many children and teens’, 34,387′ suffered nonfatal gun injuries as gun deaths in 2008 and 2009. This is equal to one child or teen every 31 minutes, 47 every day, and 331 children and teens every week.’
To get more comprehensive and detailed data about the amount of children and teens injured or killed by guns, check out the report located here.
Additionally, for families who own guns, the risk of suicide among young people increases automatically by 17%. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that 89% of all teenage suicides could have been avoided had the family not owned a gun in the home, especially since teenagers are extremely irrational and sporadic in their decisions to commit suicide. Similarly, the NRA believes that children who are educated and taught about gun safety and are shown the finality of a gun shot wound are less likely to pick up a gun and use it for deadly purposes. Unfortunately, these statistics cannot be validated because most self-inflicted gunshot wounds by children result in a fatality.
In this day and age, the world, and especially the United States is being bombarded with a great deal of fear mongering. We hear of mass shootings like those that occurred in 2012, and think for a moment that had a ‘good guy’ had a gun in the situation they might have possibly been avoided. This thinking seems to revert us back to the days of the Wild West when a pistol hung on every one’s belt loop. On the other hand, we believe that keeping a gun in our home is the best way to protect ourselves and our property from criminals should they invade our home.
And, many people take the approach that if guns and ammo are not available, and not so widely in circulation those with criminal or murderous intent would be less likely to carry out their malicious plans. Amidst the confusion of whether to have a gun in the home or not, comes the question of the children that live in the home. Is owning a gun and hiding it, or keeping it under lock and key enough to keep them safe? Is showing them how to use it properly going to make them somehow more responsible when it comes to firearms? No matter which way you look at the issue, there are no guarantees of safety that come from owning, or not owning a firearm.
Politically and morally speaking this is a controversial subject where common ground will be hard to find. Most people feel strongly in their convictions about gun ownership, and how it pertains to their children and will not look to facts and figures to make a decision. Instead, most people rely on following their instincts and gut.
Fact Check dot org, one of the non-political and non-biased fact checking agencies in the United States released the following graphic (below) in December of 2012. In January of 2013, the New York Times reported that every day in the United States,
’18 children and young adults between the ages of 1 and 24 die from gun-related injuries. That makes guns the second leading cause of death in young people ‘twice the number of deaths from cancer, five times the deaths from heart disease and 15 times the deaths from infections.’
When you begin to gather statistics, it seems obvious that gun issues are definitely a factor to be considered by parents in regard to their children’s safety. Today, it has become popular to educate our children about everything from drugs and alcohol abuse, bullying and pre-marital sex to gun control and racism.
Unfortunately, none of this education is making our children make wiser decisions. Some may even say that it is leading to more risky behaviors by exposing them to adult subject matter too early in life. This can lead to the conclusion that teaching them about guns, and how to use guns may be a lost cause as well. Or not. As the graphic from Fact Check says, ‘no single number can tell the whole story.’ And parents need to be the ones to make the right decisions for their families.
What do you think? Should kids be educated about guns? Or do you think this only makes an obvious problem worse?