If your child saw a supposedly loaded gun, would he or she know what to do? TODAY posed the question to some parents, two of whom have guns in their homes.
As the chilling video illustrates, despite training at home by parents and additional verbal-only instruction by Dr. Ray Miltenberger, the children still failed the test. Behavioral skills training is necessary in addition to verbal instruction.
IJReview reached out to Dr. Miltenberger for additional information for parents. If he could only give one piece of advice to parents, it would be:
“Keep your guns safely stored so there is never an opportunity for a child to find it and accidentally hurt him or herself or others. Teach your children what to do if they ever find a gun by role-playing the steps – don’t touch it, run away from it, and tell an adult.”
Miltenberger also offered some guidelines for how to best conduct gun safety behavioral skills training with children:
- “Practice with a replica of a firearm that looks realistic (I never suggest practicing with a real gun because, even if parents believe it is unloaded, they could make a mistake and it could be deadly).”
- “Place it in a location in the house, have the child come upon it, and practice running away, finding you in another room, and telling you.”
- “Repeat in many locations.”
- “There is no research that says how often this should happen but I would repeat the training at least yearly.”
Miltenberger also says to “never assume it is safe to leave a loaded gun accessible.” Hiding guns is not enough and giving children verbal warnings or instruction is not enough. Practicing what to do, along with securely storing guns and giving verbal instruction, is key to keeping children safe.
Nationwide Children's Hospital backs that up with national statistics, writing that 8 in 10 first graders know where their parents' guns are hidden. It adds that half of all unintentional shooting deaths of children happen in the home. Almost as many occur in the home of a friend or relative.
Kid's Health notes that children as young as three have enough finger strength to pull a trigger and fire a gun.