Information For Parents

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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.

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe program is an easy to remember message. If you see a gun:

Stop!
Don't Touch.
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.

Parents can teach their children the Eddie Eagle program at home. Simply call the Eddie eagle program at (800) 231-0752 or email eddie@nrahq.org to request a sample kit. Each kit includes a copy of the student workbook and sticker for your child along with program statistics, a description of material, an order form and the Parent's Guide to Gun Safety.

The Parent's Responsibility

In a home where guns are kept, the degree of safety a child has rests squarely on the parents and gun owner.

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 U.S. households. Even if you do not have a firearm in your home, chances are that someone you know does. You child could come in contact with a gun at a neighbors' house, when playing with friends, or under other circumstance outside of your control.

That is why it is critical for your child to know what to do if he or she encounters a firearm, and it is the parents' responsibility to provide that instruction. The Eddie Eagle program and other NRA courses are available to help parents teach their children safety. The Eddie Eagle program has no agenda other than accident prevention -- ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun.

Talking With Your Child About Gun Safety

While there is no specific age to talk with your child about gun safety, a good time to introduce the subject is when he or she shows an interest in firearms. This interest can come from family members, friends, toy guns, video games or television shows and movies. 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 a statement may just stimulate a child's natural curiosity to investigate further.

One possible strategy for talking to your children about safety is to first ask what safety means to them and what some of the things they do to be safe are. Topics might include wearing a seatbelt in the car, holding hands in the cross walk or wearing a helmet when riding their bike. You could also discuss who your child would consider a trusted adult, which they could go to in case of an emergency.

After having a broad discussion on safety, you could bring up firearm safety, the rules for firearms and what your child should do when they see a gun in an unsupervised situation.

As with any safety lesson, explaining the rules and answering a child's questions can help remove the mystery surrounding guns. Any rules you set for your own child should also apply to family members and friends who visit the home. This will keep your child from being pressured into showing a gun to visitors.

Pretend vs. Real Life

It is also advisable to discuss gun use in video games, on television and in movies as compared to the serious nature of gun use in real life. Children see characters shot and "killed" with well-documented frequency. When a young child sees the same actor appear in next week’s episode, or another movie or TV show, confusion between entertainment and real life may result. Firearms are often handled carelessly in these outlets.

Video game controllerIn many video games, players actively shoot other characters with no personal consequences. The player can simply hit the reset button to bring themselves and other characters back to life. Do not assume that your child knows the difference between being "killed" on TV or in a video game and the reality of gun violence.

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. Real guns should be stored so that they are not accessible to children and other unauthorized users.

What Should You Teach Your Child About Gun Safety?

If you have decided that your child is not ready to be trained in safe gun handling and use, teach him or her to follow the instruction of the NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program. If you find a gun:

STOP!
Don't Touch.
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.

The initial steps of "Stop" and "Don't touch" are the most important. To counter that natural impulse to touch a gun, it is imperative that you impress these steps of the safety message upon your child.

The direction to "Leave the Area" is also essential. Under some circumstance, the 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 instructors' guide, activity books, poster, and an animated DVD to explain Eddie's four-step safety message. For more information about the program, visit our website, e-mail eddie@nrahq.org or call (800) 231-0752.

Basic Gun Safety Rules

Although the NRA has complete gun safety rules available for specific types of firearm use (hunting and competition, etc.) 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, too.

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    Common sense will tell you which direction is the safest depending on your surroundings.
  2. 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. This will often be the hardest part for kids to remember.
  3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
    Demonstrate to your child how to check if a gun is loaded and where the safety mechanism is located.

Where to Get Training

There may come a time 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 NRA Youth Programs, call (703) 267-1505 or visit their website, youth.nra.org.

Providing instruction in the safe handling, use, and storage of firearms is one of the NRA's most important functions. Basic Firearms Training Courses, taught by over 100,000 NRA Certified Instructors, are offered in every state. A program called "First Steps" (Firearm Instruction, Responsibly, and Safety Training) provides a three-hour orientation to your specific firearm.

For more information about taking any of the NRA's courses, call (703) 267-1430 or locate a class near you at www.nrainstructors.org/searchcourse.aspx.

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 specific to your state.

Store guns so that they are not accessible to children and other unauthorized users. Gun shops sell a wide variety of safes, cases, and other security devices. While specific security measure 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. For more information on NRA programs or to join the NRA today, call (800) NRA-3888 or visit the NRA website at www.nra.org.