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Guns at Christmas. What parents can do to protect their kids.

Good morning!

As we are coming into the Christmas season, and with the world the way it is today, more and more people are purchasing firearms. Their experience levels vary from novice to very experienced with firearms. With the holidays and gift-giving right around the corner, we want to get the word out about gun safety as more firearms will find their way into people's homes.

As a gun owner, I understand what a rite of passage going hunting with a parent is for many kids. As a firearms trainer and a former firefighter and paramedic, I also know the importance of gun safety. I have seen serious, even deadly consequences, as a result of a child shot with a BB or pellet gun.

People do not realize that a basic BB guns like a Red Ryder can fire up to 450 feet/second, and some pellet guns can fire up to 1,300 feet/second, which is faster than most handguns.

Studies have shown that it only takes 331 feet/second to penetrate the skin, so it is easy to see why injuries and deaths can occur from such basic firearms. Teaching children to respect firearms is important. Still, more importantly, parental supervision is important, as well as appropriately storing all firearms properly to keep our children safe from unintentional injuries. Many children have been harmed by what's thought of as a “toy gun”. If you are going to have guns in the house, it's important to teach children to respect ALL guns. It can save a life and teach children to have gun safety habits as they get older.

Giving guns as gifts, especially BB and pellet guns, is a common occurrence. In fact, the vast majority of us grew up with these types of firearms and never would think of them as "deadly." But the truth is, they can cause severe injury and death.

It is important to be vigilant about safety when we have any type of firearm in the home. In Virginia, minors can't buy guns. It's illegal to sell a long gun (rifles) to anyone under 18 and to sell handguns to anyone under 21. However, it's not illegal to give a gun to a minor with parental permission.

If you do buy a gun for your younger child, make sure they are mature enough to handle the firearm. And, if you are taking the gun out for hunting or recreation, always travel with your child. Never let them go alone.

Some helpful tips for gun safety include:

  • Start with a hunter's safety course for children to learn the basics of firearm handling.

  • When you aren't using a gun, store the gun unloaded, and locked up. Lock up the bullets separately and keep control of the keys.

  • Teach your child to assume a gun is always loaded.

  • Never point a gun at someone or yourself.

  • Set a good example with your own gun handling practices. For instance, don't leave a gun out in the open.

Talk to the parents of your child's friends if they have guns in their homes and asked how they are stored. And if asked about your own guns, don't be offended.

If your child sees a gun, teach them to:

  • Stop

  • Don't touch it

  • Run away,

  • Tell a grownup ASAP

Safe Storage

  • Store firearms unloaded in locked locations, out of reach of children.

  • Use trigger locks and gun boxes.

  • Secure ammunition separately.

  • Hide gun safe and trigger lock keys.

  • Keep unlocked guns in your possession.

  • Make sure all guns are equipped with effective, child-resistant gun locks.

  • If a visitor has a gun in a backpack, briefcase, handbag, or unlocked car, provide them with a locked place to keep it when they are in your home.

The 3T's of firearm safety and children.

Talk – to your family, friends, and neighbors about the importance of firearm safety to keep our children safe

Teach – your children how to respond if they encounter an unsecured firearm

Take – personal responsibility to store your firearms appropriately to keep ALL our children safe!

And finally, if you are going to purchase a firearm this Christmas - remember to purchase a storage device along with that firearm to keep it from being found and mishandled by any children, so that we can keep our holiday fun, festive and SAFE!

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