By Dr. Leigh Doane
Hi! I’m a mom of two little girls here, ages 28 months and 7 months. I’m also married to a police officer who’s been on the force for 12 years now. I’m also a fulltime working mom and an OBGYN. I never grew up around guns and didn’t have them in the home. I maybe shot a gun less than 5 times in my life before we started dating. So when my now husband and I started dating, and he owned FIVE guns, I knew I had to everything to educate myself, to make sure I was safe, and that I knew how to handle them. This was reiterated even more as I became pregnant with our oldest, because soon enough she would be crawling, walking, and exploring every inch of our home! And now she’s the tiny tyrant that runs our household.
Let me start off by telling you a somewhat funny story, but also honest too…. My husband and I had been dating for a few months and he had a pool at his apartment. After one afternoon at the pool, I decided to shower and get ready for a dinner out.
I went into the linen closet to grab a fresh towel and then his handgun fell from the top of the stack of towels and landed straight on my foot!
His fully loaded hand gun landed with a big THUD on my foot!
No, nothing bad happened. I wasn’t injured. But I was freaked out to the max. It COULD have. I was so scared that it came out as anger. How could he just leave it there and not tell me where it was? What if it would have misfired? What if the safety had come off? This was so dangerous I was beside myself. I can honestly say I’m very thankful that my husband and I rarely fight but this had me so upset it was worth fighting about. From that day forward, we set out to be safe, smart, and educated about gun safety. We had to come up with a plan for having guns in our home that provided comfort and reassurance. It has taken a bit of work and a small investment, but the piece of mind is well worth it. It’s funny now and we can look back and laugh about the time I almost shot my foot off (ok, maybe I’m being a drama queen, but it wasn’t funny then!)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that the safest home for a child is one without guns. The most effective way to prevent unintentional gun injuries, suicide, and homicide to children and adolescents, research shows, is the absence of guns from homes and communities. With my husband’s job in law enforcement, that’s not happening anytime soon. I may be “old fashioned” but I still believe in the second amendment the right to bear arms and own a gun. However, I do support gun-control legislation. I believe that assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines should be banned.
If you don’t have a gun in your home, congrats. Well done. That still doesn’t protect your kid from going to one of the 2 million homes in the United States that have a gun. Nearly a third of all children live in a home with a gun. So, when your child goes over for a sleep over this weekend, just keep that in mind. In 2017, 285 children got a hold of a gun and inadvertently shot themselves or someone else.
Studies show that teaching our kids about gun safety is not enough. Clearly there needs to be a dialogue so that if they find one they know what to do, but we must go further than that.
- All guns need to be stored safely.
– We have a small gun safe that we keep under the bed that has a code that only my husband and I know. If there was an emergency in the house this is my “go to” gun.
We also have a separate closet which also has the rest of my husband’s police gear in it that contain his guns and other hazardous items (taser, mase, etc). This again has a coded key pad that only he and I know.
– There are various types of safes available (coded, fingerprint, fast entry) and others are designed for water/fire protection. The point is that its locked, out of reach. You can pick which one suits your family’s needs.
– Do not keep loaded, unlocked guns in your car.
– Ammo needs to be in a separate locked location. If your kid finds a way into one (which those clever sneaky kids can do!) hopefully they will not know where the other is stored and can’t have access that either.
- Know the guns in your house.
– When we first moved in together I asked my husband to show me how to load, unload, and fire all the guns in our home. I wanted to know what I was doing. He also happens to think this is pretty hot. Bonus for me for being a hot wife!
– We go and shoot the guns about every 6 months. Like I said we are both busy full-time working parents, but we make it a priority to keep our skills current. I feel like I learn something every time I shoot, and my confidence grows too. I always shoot my “go-to” gun but I practice with other ones too.
– When are girls are a little older, we will teach them to shoot as well. But for now, its hands off.
– When using a gun for hunting or target practice, keep the safety on until you are ready to fire it. Before setting the gun down, always unload it. As much as a child may want to take a turn shooting, this is not a good idea. No matter how much instruction you may give about how to safely shoot a gun, children are not capable or responsible enough to handle a potentially lethal weapon without complete supervision.
- Ask about guns when your child visits another friend’s or family member’s home.
– Just because you practice gun safety, doesn’t mean other parents feel the same way.
– More than a third of all unintentional shootings of children take place in the homes of their friends, neighbors, or relatives.
– One idea is to create a playdate checklist so when you call to ask about what time you need to pick up/drop off, ask about what rules they have (pets, allergies, cursing, movies, video games, internet usage, bedtimes, gun safety etc). Just make this part of your normal parenting routine.
– Did you know that there is a whole day dedicated to asking about guns in the home??? It’s June 21st. Check out: www.askingsaveskids.org
- When you do talk to your kids about guns….
– Let them know that what they see on TV and in a movie is not REAL. There little minds have trouble discerning what is real and what is acting. (My toddler is convinced that Moana is real when went to the beach she thought she’d see her there).
– If they come across a gun, don’t touch it and tell you immediately.
– Remind them again and again. How many times do you have to remind your kid to brush their teeth? Enough said.
Some thoughts to dwell on…. Every day 78 children are killed or injured by guns in the United States. Children as young as 3 are stronger enough to pull a trigger. If you think you’ll wait until your kids are older. Don’t. Don’t put it off.