It goes without saying that everyone wants their kids to be safe when it comes to guns…whether they are in the house or in public. That is never the issue. The issue is around the laws that either are in place or that some want to put in place to help lower the statistic of accidents with guns that are related to children. One such debate is relating to age and how this impacts gun accidents.
One discussion happening is in West Virginia. WCHS TV put together and article and news story that discusses one of the many issues around gun laws and children, “Kids and Guns – How Young is Too Young.” Apparently, with more focus on gun violence in the country, some parents believe it is prudent to teach their kids about guns at an early age so they both respect what they can do and so they can learn what to do when they are around firearms. The opposing side to this argument says kids should not be exposed to guns at all until they reach a much older age.
Should a law be in place to tell you when it is time to put a gun in the hands of your children…or should this be up to the responsibility of the parent? Many gun owners throughout the country are hunters and their children learn to hunt at an early age. If there was a law in place that wouldn’t allow them to handle guns but they went hunting, would this be safer?
The other side of the argument says to not put this into a law but to put more emphasis and attention of parents getting their children in gun safety classes. There are certainly many benefits to have children trained if they are going to be either handling or around firearms. They would know the seriousness of what a firearm can do and the proper way to handle it or even to be around it if the situation presented itself.
There has also been heightened awareness of this debate since of the recent shooting of an instructor by a 9 year old that was shooting an Uzi at a gun facility. The Washington Post carried a detailed article about the shooting, “Girl who accidentally shot her instructor with an Uzi said the gun was too much for her.” Some feel if there were laws based on age this never would have happened. Others feel that the instructor was being negligent in allowing this to happen in the first place and so it wouldn’t have mattered. Regardless, it was tragic.
Laws are meant to help regulate activities and to be in place to punish those that go outside these lines. They aren’t designed to replace responsibility and accountability. Whether there is a law in place or not, there will still be irresponsible people in the world. They may or may not understand or choose to follow the law…this will happen regardless of whether a law is in place or not.
What might be another alternative than an additional gun law to enforce is to spend the time and money it would take a state to put this into action on training and education for both parents and children. I do believe that when people are more aware of the consequences of their actions, they are more likely to change them. I don’t know the answer to the age question for children, but as a gun lawyer, I do know that taking personal responsibility for safety training is well outside the law and something everyone should be doing.