A group of eight children, ranging in age from preschool to seventh grade, watch as Eddie Eagle lays out the four basic gun safety rules for children in a short film. Their parents, in an adjoining room, are being commended on taking competent and necessary steps to prevent gun related tragedies.
Instructor, Tyson Kilbey, takes a moment to reiterate to the parents that pretending like guns are not around does not prevent accidental gun injuries and deaths. Telling a child to never touch a gun only adds to the mystery and curiosity which leads to unsafe handling of firearms. He takes it a step further and urges the parents to, "make gun training a constant process. Make it fun, and they will continue to practice safe gun handling their entire lives."
After the children introduce themselves the room quickly fills with laughter as Kilbey leads them in a high energy game of Simon Says. Kilbey has all of the children's direct and active attention on him. They listen to every word and hurriedly obey. The children are having a blast as he is effortlessly establishing authority in the room.
Once the final child obeys the last command and the game has been won, instructor David Whisenhunt, steps in to reiterate the lessons learned from Eddie Eagle. The children, excited to share their knowledge, shout out the four rules for children and guns.
2) Don't touch
3) Leave the area
4) Tell a trusted adult
Whisenhunt then stretches their mode of thinking, as they prepare to move into the five cardinal rules for gun safety, by asking, "How do you know if a gun is loaded?" To which one boy quickly replies, "You don't. That's why you don't touch it " Kilbey steps up and writes the numbers one they five on the white board and asks the group to explain the rules for safe gun handling. Obviously, some of the children had heard these before as hands raise, thrashing the air around them, voices shouting, "Pick me! I know! Treat all guns as if they are loaded!"
"Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to shoot."
"Know your target and what's behind it."
"Keep your finger of the trigger until you are ready to shoot. "
Kilbey points out that there is one more rule and Whisenhunt steps in to explain the importance of storing guns unloaded, reiterating that you can't tell if a gun is unloaded simply by looking at it. One of the children blurts out that, "there could still be a bullet in the chamber," even if the magazine is out, to which Kilbey demonstrates with the use of dummy ammunition (snap caps).
Both instructors form a line and use training guns (blue guns) to teach the children the importance of keeping your finger off the trigger and never pointing a gun at anything you are not willing to shoot.
During this training, one little boy is heard saying to a friend, "Don't point that at me, I like my life!"
Soon, all of the children feel comfortable and their curiosity has been quelled, the room one again erupts in games and laughter as they play they are reminded gently about thinking things through and being aware and responsible for the safety of themselves and those around them.
After the last game is over, the children review what they have learned. A five year old girl, who had started the class reluctant and shy, was beaming with pride as she recited, "Stop, don't touch, leave, get a grownup!" (Though honestly I think her dad, who was looking on, was even more proud of her than she could possibly be of herself.)
Each child was called up and presented with a certificate of training and given a few pieces of candy for their hard work.
When asked, one mom explained that, "with more friends and family owning guns, I want my child to know what to do around them. I can't be there to protect my child in every situation, but I can teach them ways to protect themselves." Then a dad chimed in offering, "If you're a parent you know that sometimes your kids don't listen to you. But, sometimes they are more likely to listen to someone else who says the exact same thing as you. So you have to find someone you trust and I wouldn't trust anyone but Kilbey and Whisenhunt to train my kids." This statement was met with resounding agreement from all the parents in the room.
In no time, the small voices and high energy that had filled the room moments before, were all headed on their way to family and activities that were awaiting them. Yet, it's satisfying to know that those eight children now know the basics of gun safety. Even more, it's encouraging to know that those children can help educate those in their sphere of influence, both peers as well as adults.
[A special thank you to Tyson Kilbey and David Whisenhunt, with Top Firearms Instruction, for giving me the opportunity to observe the Kids Handgun Safety class.
Keep up the good fight!
Blog posts are original content written by 1MMAGC moms and dads.