Kids and Guns: Mas Ayoob on Proven Safety Methods

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Massad Ayoob argues that when it comes to gun safety in the home, you can’t childproof your guns, so you have to gunproof your children.

From electrical outlets to power saws to automobiles to household poisons to, yes, guns, there are things in American households that can hurt or kill our children. Those things must be kept from their hands until they have matured to a level of responsibility that allows them access.

Hiding guns in hollowed out books is an ancient trick, but may not fool a burglar left alone in your home.

Hiding guns in hollowed out books is an ancient trick, but may not fool a burglar left alone in your home.

A mantra of those who would ban firearms has long been, “Think of the children!” They will find a case where a child got hold of a loaded gun that was left carelessly accessible to them, with tragedy resulting, and play it up – ignoring the fact that today’s kids are far more likely to drown in a family swimming pool or even a bathtub than to be killed in a firearms accident.

They will also ignore the fact that accidental firearms deaths have long trended downward despite demonstrable, empirical proof that there are far more guns in American homes now than ever before.

Back in the 1980s, I wrote a short book called Gunproof Your Children. It’s still in print, available from Police Bookshelf, PO Box 122, Concord, NH 03302. I called it that because, then and now, my conclusion has always been that you can’t childproof your guns, so you have to gunproof your children.

The theory of hiding guns from the kids is a loser’s game. Do we seriously think we are the first generation of parents to outsmart our children? Was there anything your parents could hide from you where you couldn’t find it if left to your own devices?

You can secure your guns in gun safes to which only you have the combination, but you can’t successfully hide them. Not from your children, and not from a burglar with unlimited time in your home.

There are gun-hiding clocks and wall-hangings and such, but give unauthorized hands time enough, and they will find them. Books hollowed out to hold small handguns have been with us since the nineteenth century at least.

Trouble is, that fourteen-year-old nephew you’re taking care of may decide to read that book when you’re not looking, and burglars know that people hide greenbacks inside the pages of ordinary books, and are known to rifle through them looking for cash.

What this writer found decades ago was that when the kids are not yet responsible, you keep the guns secure from them, where you and other responsible adults can access them and the children simply can’t. It becomes clear as soon as you look at it with a practical and unbiased eye that if the gun is kept on your person, it is at once instantly accessible to you but inaccessible to unauthorized hands.

Child psychologists tell us that children crave two things they don’t yet have: power and responsibility. Both are absolutely embodied in the gun. Look at how many heroes and power figures in the entertainment media carry and wield them. This makes guns magnets to the hands of children.

popular and effective quick-access handgun safe for the home.

The GunVault is a popular and effective quick-access handgun safe for the home.

My work required me to have firearms not only in the home, but – due to death threats that stemmed from my work, and the fact that I was almost always on call for the police department I was sworn to serve – at least one or more of those guns had to be always loaded and ready. The route I took was to educate my kids in firearms.

When each was five years old, I started them helping me to clean my guns. It de-mystified them, and it also de-glamorized them. (“Eew! Yuck! Gross! They’re oily and dirty!”)

One benefit was that if one of my kids was at some other kid’s house and that little brat took their daddy’s gun out of the nightstand drawer, my kid knew how to unload and neutralize it – how to “de-fang the snake.” Both my kids started shooting at age six, and won national champion shooting titles in their teens.

Each is now a gun-owning parent of a next generation of kids who won’t have tragic accidents with firearms.

This article is an excerpt from Gun Safety in the Home By Massad Ayoob.


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One thought on “Kids and Guns: Mas Ayoob on Proven Safety Methods

  1. DocSkinner

    I would disagree with this pint: “… and that little brat took their daddy’s gun out of the nightstand drawer, my kid knew how to unload and neutralize it”

    getting into a confrontation or trying to have your child talk the person into putting the gun away or giving them is a recipe for disaster. The next thing the brat does is say “Don’t be such a bummer – it isn’t even loaded – see!” and point and pull trigger at either them self or at your child that is asking them about the gun. I think quiet disengagement and surreptitious retreat is the best response in that case. You certainly don’t want your child trying to “talk the other person down” or to try to take the gun away from them.

    I have told my kids that if that situation ever occurs to not try and confront the other child, or debate them, but to simply and quietly turn and leave and find an adult, and if no adult in the house and they don’t know the neighbors, to call us and we will immediately come and get them.

    If the gun hasn’t come out yet, to try and say no thanks or segue, but if they decide they are going to go get the gun anyway – then the same. Do not follow the. Beat feet in the opposite direction and stay clear.

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