Teaching Kids To Shoot Handguns: How Young Is Too Young?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A gun in a child's hands would be a nightmare for a lot of parents.

Every year, hundreds are injured or killed by a gun fired by a child. In fact, so far this year there has been an unintentional shooting every 34 hours in America. Now, there is a growing movement to teach kids about guns.

Gun Safety Courses

A class in Mooresville is like many others popping up across the country teaching adolescents the ins and outs of gun safety. Some people believe that is the best fix to prevent gun-related deaths involving kids.

Eleven-year-old Bailey McIntyre took the class because she "thought it would be interesting," and 14-year-old Logan Smith said, "I like shooting a gun."

Others, like 16-year-old Josh Miller, simply want to know the safety of a gun.

When Should You Start Teaching Kids about Guns?

A USA TODAY study found more than 1,000 accidental shootings involving children between January of 2014 and last June.

Earlier this year, a Waxhaw police officer’s 2-year-old found his service weapon at home and accidentally shot his mother. In 2015, 3-year-old Savion Borrow died in Rock Hill after accidentally shooting himself at his home.

Karen Fisher is a gun safety expert and the instructor of the class. She believes teaching kids explicitly through hands-on experience will lower accidents and deaths.

"I believe you can start as young as three years old," she said.

She says the lessons can start as soon as kids begin playing with toy guns. There are simple safety rules she hammers into every student. Everything from ammunition and components to first pointing the gun in a safe direction and keeping your fingers off of the trigger.

"Just those two components that you can drill into your child's head could be the difference between life or death," said Fisher.

Protecting Kids Away From Home

Brian McIntyre had a specific reason for sending his son to the class.

"That's what you hear about all the time — kids finding guns in other people's houses," McIntyre said.

McIntyre isn't the only parent afraid of what might happen somewhere else.

"You've got a child (and) you can't be with them 24/7," said Christa Miller. "What if they're at a friend's house and they encounter a firearm?"

Fisher says it could happen.

"One in three households in America have a gun," Fisher said. "You may never have one, but that does not mean that your child's not going to go three doors down and be in a home with a gun. More than likely, they will be."

Christy Clark, who is with Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense, says the best safety approach is to keep kids away from guns altogether, making sure they're locked up and unloaded.

"We know that kids will be kids," Clark said. "They're going to be impulsive and we know that even though they've been told not to touch a gun that they will go ahead and touch a gun."

She says it's the adult's responsibility to keep weapons away from curious kids.

"We can store guns safely, we can model responsible gun behavior, we can ask if our friends and family have guns in their homes," Clark said.

That is a strategy clearly at odds with what Fisher and all of these parents practice.

North Carolina state lawmakers filed a bill a few weeks ago requesting the creation of a comprehensive firearms education. House Bill 612 would allow kids to learn every aspect about guns.

Currently, you can buy a shotgun or rifle without safety training. 

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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