Giving your child his/her first gun is a relationship milestone. It might reflect a rite of passage to adulthood, a symbol of family tradition or even a new bonding or hobby experience.

However, there are many things to consider about your child’s first gun; particularly responsibility and the safety of everyone involved. Here are some tips and suggestions for a positive first-gun experience.

Before Buying

Many parents who buy their children a gun are likely gun owners themselves.

For this reason, they should understand “Child Access Prevention” (CAP) laws at state and federal levels. These CAP regulations require gun owners to be legally responsible for safe storage of firearms, specifically so they don’t fall into the hands of children or strangers.

Additionally, there are state and federal laws governing gun ownership by age. “Federal law prohibits handgun ownership by any person under the age 18, with a handful of exceptions. But there is no minimum age for long gun (i.e. rifle and shotgun) ownership.”

Since firearm regulations vary by state, it’s important to understand the particular restrictions in your area before purchasing your child’s first gun.

Before Using

Children and young adults prefer hands-on learning rather than reading and studying instructions. Just watch a kid with a new video game toss aside the directions and start playing. However, this learning strategy should never take place with a gun.

Experts suggest, before a child gets to handle a gun, they should familiarize themselves by helping clean it. Cleaning a gun with your child and teaching them its mechanics will take the mystery out of it, and reinforce that guns are weapons and not toys.

Once your child is of age and understands firearms are tools, never playthings, you can take them to a professional gun range for supervised target practice. In this way, they learn as much about safety as shooting.

If a gun range is not your experience of choice, you can let your child practice shooting at home with a BB gun. These air guns mimic traditional firearms without the potential devastation of actual bullets.

However, it’s essential to teach your child that guns have destructive power capable of irreversible damage, no matter how adept at shooting they become.

Responsibility

Critics will argue that children should not have any access to guns, let alone own them. However, nobody knows your child the way you do. Parents who feel their children are responsible enough for gun ownership have the right to make that decision.

In a sense, your child’s first gun can foster and reinforce their responsibility. And knowing you trust them to respect firearms and use them properly can strengthen the bond you already have.

Additionally, teaching them to care for and clean their first gun, shoot it properly, and stow it safely is a lesson in responsibility.

Gun ownership not only requires personal responsibility, but civic responsibility as well. It’s heartbreaking each time gun violence is in the news, particularly in situations that appear preventable.

The more that young people understand guns are weapons with destructive power, the more they can model and encourage others to share deep responsibility for protection and safety.

Safety

Parents must ensure children practice the utmost safety with any firearm; and establishing this practice with a “first” gun is essential. The most important lesson in responsibility as a gun owner is understanding the rules of safety for self and others.

Children should learn at the outset how to safely clean, operate and stow a gun. Parents need to reinforce these lessons so their children put gun safety ahead of anything else as gun owners.

The strongest method to imprint respect for gun safety in children is for adults to model it. Children are always watching and listening, even when it seems they aren’t, and they will notice any carelessness demonstrated by their elders – especially when it comes to firearms.

Parents need to foster safe behavior in their children by modeling it themselves at all times.

Conclusion

Parents take great joy in sharing experiences with their children.

Whether you are a hunter by sport, enjoy target shooting, or consider yourself a gun enthusiast, you can share this passion with your children. And giving your child his/her first gun can be a first step in creating lasting memories.

The tips and suggestions in this article for how to make your child’s first gun a safe and positive experience is just the start. It’s essential to gather information before you purchase a gun for your child, and even more so before they use it.

In the end, the lessons your child learns in responsibility and safety will carry through to their adulthood, keeping your own legacy moving forward.

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