Disclaimer - the information herein is based on my person experience, in my home, with my family. Your experience may be different. Before you consider any gun safety measures, consider you own situation and seek the advice of a qualified trainer.
Yesterday I read yet another story about a child who found their parent's loaded gun, and ended up shooting herself, and died. I'm not going to link to the story, because it's far to common.
The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I bet I wrote 6 versions of a tweet, some of which I deleted because of profanity. I finally settled for
"Kids being shot with guns they find break my heart. If you have guns and kids but don't use a safe you're an idiot."
I've raised two children in a household with multiple guns, and I've never had a single safety issue with them. In our house, firearm safety is a two sided issue: equal parts physical gun security, and gun owner attitude. The current "gun safety" focus pushed by the anti-gun crowd focuses entirely on the physical gun security issue, and ignores the attitude issue, or, worse, fosters an attitude of fear, that is completely at odds with real gun safety. Let me explain.
PHYSICAL GUN SECURITY
There should be no way any unauthorized person in your house should be able to access a firearm without supervision. By "unauthorized person" I mean children and others who have no business with your firearms, like visitors or burglars.
For us, this means all guns were locked in a safe when not being carried by a responsible person. I have two safes, a Gunvault Master like the one pictured above, and a long gun safe. Both safes are bolted down, and the Gunvault pistol safe is placed high on a shelf in my closet, away from prying eyes and away from the casual observer.
We keep our carry handguns in a holster in this safe, with the door locked, whenever they are not being carried. The Gunvault will pop open in seconds, and my wife and I both practice opening it in the dark and under stress.
The long gun safe is kept in another part of the house, again, always locked, and away from prying eyes and away from the casual observer. My competition handguns and other handguns are kept here, along with my long guns.
Ammunition is stored separate from the long guns, in a locked cabinet that is not labeled in any way, because I don't want to draw attention to the cabinet, the safe, or my closet.
These physical security measures are zero tolerance, and no nonsense. We don't leave guns lying around, and we don't practice with them, clean them, or work on them in the normal living area.
There should never be "just this once," or "I'll put this here for a minute," or "I'll put this in my child's book bag for a minute, then put it up later." If you can't commit to that, you should not own a gun.
Now, as important as the physical security of my guns is, it is actually the backup leg of my plan. To me, the most important part is the attitude of those involved.
It starts with the attitude of my wife and me. You see, guns are not, in and of themselves, unsafe or dangerous in any way. No gun will ever just "go off." Guns don't shoot themselves.
We're not afraid of guns, so we've never acted that way around our kids. We don't teach them that they are evil or inherently dangerous.
Don't get me wrong - guns in the hands of the wrong person can be very very very dangerous and unsafe. But it's not the gun that's unsafe, it's the person. So we train the person to be safe.
Here's how I handled it:
First, our kids never even knew where my guns were kept until they knew how to shoot them, and my wife and I felt they were old enough and mature enough to handle that information. As a result, our kids didn't see my guns as a big deal. As far as I know (and I asked) they never hunted for them, and didn't try to show them off to their friends. In fact, until my daughter was old enough and experienced enough to be able to use a gun to defend herself, she never even knew the Gunvault was in my closet.
Second, we've never treated guns flippantly or casually. We never leave them lying around. I don't dry fire or practice with them when they are around. When I clean them or work on them, it's at my work bench in the garage. But I have shown my kids what I do when I clean them, by showing how to unload them, separate the ammunition, and make sure the guns are safe. Then, when I was done, they knew the guns went back in the safe, or back on my belt.
Third, as soon as they were old enough, I began teaching them the Rules of Gun Safety, and the Eddie Eagle principles of "Stop, Don't Touch, Call an Adult."
Teaching the Four Rules started with toy guns and Nerf guns, so that by the time we were ready for the "real thing," they knew the Rules.
I even tested them on the Rules. Once, when my son and I were getting out his BB gun, I shook it, then handed it to him. I asked, "Is it loaded?" He shook it and said, "No."
Wrong answer. Rule 1 is "All guns are always loaded." So the gun went back up, and we shot another day.
Cruel? No. Because he knows now to always treat every gun as if it were loaded, because you can't always tell when they are and when they are not. (More on this Rule in an upcoming post.)
As my children grew, I taught them more and more about gun safety and marksmanship. This grew into an attitude of respect, rather than fear.
Of course, toddlers, visitors, and intruders may come across an unsecured gun by accident. That's why we have the safes - as a backup, so this doesn't happen.
But, again, there is a zero tolerance here. If you can't own a gun without being afraid of it, you shouldn't own a gun. If you're afraid of it, that fear will show to those around you, and you won't be able to use it right when you need to.
So why do we find kids getting killed with guns they find, or carry to school? To me, it's because we instill the wrong attitude in them.
By instilling fear of guns into everyone, the anti-gun factions make things more dangerous. They seek to make the gun itself the villain. The problem is that kids and the immature react two ways to fear, that are actually the reverse of what you would wish to see.
Children and the immature have an almost morbid curiosity about the unknown, especially unknown symbols of fear. As a result, they want to seek them out. But, those who fear guns are also too absorbed by that fear to learn safe gun handling, the Rules of Gun Safety, or anything that would make them safer, were they ever to encounter a real gun. So, when they do handle a gun, they do all the wrong and unsafe things with them, with well-known deadly results.
Know your children, know your family, know your guns. Store your guns safely, use them safely, and treat them with respect.