Parents play a key role in developing safe practices and are
ultimately responsible for the behavior and safety of their
children. Because isolated lessons and concepts can be
quickly forgotten, repetition will help children remember
standard safety procedures.
PARENTS' GUIDE TO GUN SAFETY
This text is also available as a brochure. To receive a copy of the
"Parents' Guide to Gun Safety" brochure, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (800) 231-0752 (US number).
The Parents' Responsibility
In a home where guns are kept, the degree of safety a child has rests squarely on the
Parents who accept the responsibility to learn, practice and teach gun safety rules will
ensure their child's safety to a much greater extent than those who do not. Parental
responsibility does not end, however, when the child leaves the home.
According to federal statistics, there are guns in approximately half of all US
households. Even if no one in your family owns a gun, chances are that someone you
know does. Your child could come in contact with a gun at a neighbor's house, when
playing with friends, or under other circumstances outside your home.
It is critical for your child to know what to do if he or she encounters a firearm anywhere,
and it is the parents' responsibility to provide that training.
Talking With Your Child About Gun Safety
There is no particular age to talk with your child about gun safety. A good time to
introduce the subject is the first time he or she shows an interest in firearms, even toy
pistols or rifles. Talking openly and honestly about gun safety with your child is usually
more effective than just ordering him or her to "Stay out of the gun closet," and leaving it
at that. Such statements may just stimulate a child's natural curiosity to investigate
As with any safety lesson, explaining the rules and answering a child's questions help
remove the mystery surrounding guns. Any rules set for your own child should also
apply to friends who visit the home. This will help keep your child from being pressured
into showing a gun to a friend.
Toy Guns vs. Real Guns
It is also advisable, particularly with very young children, to discuss gun use on
television as opposed to gun use in real life. Firearms are often handled carelessly in
movies and on TV. Additionally, children see TV and movie characters shot and "killed"
with well-documented frequency. When a young child sees that same actor appear in
another movie or TV show, confusion between entertainment and real life may result. It
may be a mistake to assume that your child knows the difference between being "killed"
on TV and in reality.
If your child has toy guns, you may want to use them to demonstrate safe gun handling
and to explain how they differ from genuine firearms. Even though an unsupervised
child should not have access to a gun, there should be no chance that he or she could
mistake a real gun for a toy.
What Should You Teach Your Child About Gun Safety
If you have decided that your child is not ready to be trained in a gun's handling and
use, teach him or her to follow the instructions of NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program. If you find a gun:
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.
The initial steps of "Stop" and "Don't Touch" are the most important. To counter the
natural impulse to touch a gun, it is imperative that you impress these steps of the
safety message upon your child.
In today's society, where adult supervision is not always possible, the direction to
"Leave the Area" is also essential. Under some circumstances, area may be
understood to be a room if your child cannot physically leave the apartment or house.
"Tell an Adult" emphasizes that children should seek a trustworthy adult, neighbor,
relative or teacher -- if a parent or guardian is not available.
The NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program includes an instructor guide, activity books,
poster, and an animated video to explain its four-step safety message. For more
information about the program, visit www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie or call (800) 231-0752 (US number).
Basic Gun Safety Rules
Although the NRA has complete gun safety rules available for specific types of firearm
use (hunting and competition, for example), the following three rules are fundamental in
any situation. Whether or not you own a gun, it is important to know these rules so that
you may insist that others follow them.
• Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Whether you are shooting or
simply handling a gun, never point it at yourself or others.
Common sense will tell you which direction is the safest. Outdoors, it is generally
safe to point the gun toward the ground, or, if you are at a shooting range, toward
the target. Indoors, be mindful of the fact that a bullet can penetrate ceilings,
floors, walls, windows, and doors.
• Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. When holding a
gun, rest your trigger finger outside the trigger guard alongside the gun. Until you
are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
• Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. If you do not know how to
check to see if a gun is unloaded, leave it alone. Carefully secure it, being certain
to point it safely and to keep your finger off the trigger, and seek competent
Where to Get Training
The time may come when you or your family members want to learn how to handle and
shoot a gun safely. In the case of a child, his or her attitude, learning ability, and
physical and emotional maturity are some of the factors to be weighed before allowing
formal instruction to begin.
When a parent decides a young person is ready, many training opportunities are
available. For more information on the NRA's Youth Programs call (703) 267-1505
(US number - for people living outside the US contact your local gun shop or club).
Providing instruction in the safe handling, use, and storage of firearms is one of the
NRA's most important functions. Basic Firearm Training Courses, taught by over 50,000
NRA Certified Instructors, are offered in every state. A program called "FIRST Steps"
(Firearm Instruction, Responsibility, and Safety Training) provides a three-hour orientation
to your specific firearm. For more information about taking any of these
courses, call (703) 267-1430 (US number).
Gun Owners' Responsibilities
Most states impose some form of legal duty on adults to take reasonable steps to deny
access by children to dangerous substances or instruments. It is the individual gun
owner's responsibility to understand and follow all laws regarding gun purchase,
ownership, storage, transport, etc. Contact your state police and/or local police for
information regarding such laws. If you own a gun and do not know how to operate it, do
not experiment with it. Point it in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger, and
store it securely. Seek competent assistance and instruction at once. An untrained adult
can be as dangerous as a curious child.
Store guns so that they are inaccessible to children and other unauthorized users. Gun
shops sell a wide variety of safes, cases, and other security devices. While specific
security measures may vary, a parent must, in every case, assess the exposure of the
firearm and absolutely ensure that it is inaccessible to a child.
This webpage is not intended as a complete course in gun safety and is not a substitute
for formal, qualified instruction in the handling, use, or storage of firearms. The
guidelines herein should be considered options to minimize the chance of an accident
occurring in the home.