An air gun can be a fun way for kids to learn the basics of firearms handling, target practice, instinctive shooting and hunting. Parents often buy them as Christmas or birthday presents for older children, but the first thing kids should learn before they use an air gun is how firearms safety principles apply to the weapon.
For Younger Children
Before children are old enough to own a gun, they should learn some basic gun safety principles for their own protection and that of others around them. This is important for protecting younger children if their older sibling owns a gun. It may also help protect your child even if no one in your household owns a gun but one of your relatives or neighbors or one of your children’s playmates does.
For children from prekindergarten age to fourth grade, the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program teaches a four-step approach to firearms safety:
- First, children in this age range should STOP before doing anything
- Second, don’t touch the gun
- Third, run away. This removes the risk of getting in the line of injury if someone else touches the weapon
- Fourth, get an adult. A parent, relative, neighbor, or teacher can make sure the gun is handled safely
These rules also apply if one child sees another child playing with a gun. Most gun accidents occur when one child tries to take a gun away from another.
For additional safety around younger children, use a gun storage safe. Several affordable models are available from retailers such as Cabela’s. You should also teach children that it’s not okay to seek out guns in storage when adults aren’t around.
Rule #1: Always Point the Barrel in a Safe Direction
Always point the barrel of a gun in a safe direction. The safest direction to point a gun is usually at the ground or the floor slightly to the side of you, making sure it’s not pointing at your feet or anyone else’s. As long as children follow this rule, even if a gun goes off accidentally, no one will get hurt. Make sure that children can repeat this rule before learning anything else.
Rule #2: Never Touch the Trigger Until You’re Ready to Fire
Children never touch the trigger until they’re ready to shoot. Following this rule will keep the gun from accidentally firing. Applying this rule means getting in the habit of picking up the gun with the trigger finger alongside the gun, not inside the trigger guard. This is the opposite of how TV and movies usually show guns being handled, so be sure children understand the difference between how Hollywood handles triggers and the safe way to handle triggers in real life.
Rule #3: Never Load the Gun Until You’re Ready to Shoot
The third gun safety rule children should learn is to keep guns unloaded until they’re ready to shoot. An unloaded gun cannot hurt anyone. This applies to pellet and BB guns just as it does to regular firearms.