Children are taught basic life lessons starting at an early age: look both ways before you cross the street, don’t touch the stove, don’t play with matches, don’t talk to strangers, etc. These introductory life lessons keep children out of trouble. One important lesson that many children, unfortunately, do not learn is respect for firearms. With more than 300 million legal firearms in circulation amongst Americans, teaching firearm safety and handling knowledge is imperative.
A policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics bluntly states that guns shouldn’t be kept in homes that have children. But what good is this anti-firearms policy? The American Academy of Pediatrics would like you to think that by keeping firearms out of children’s’ lives, gun culture will wane and the topic will be ignored altogether.
Law-abiding gun owners should not sell or hide their guns when they have children. Instead, they should teach basic safety, respect, and handling of firearms to them. This way children will be more accustomed to firearms, they’ll have a better understanding that firearms are not a toy, and they’ll learn not to goof-off or play with them.
The best way to accomplish this is by teaching firearm safety, which involves learning to shoot – not by making the topic of guns taboo. With this, the question arises, what is the best age for children to learn how to shoot?
There are many resources in public circulation that answer questions for parents regarding how to talk about firearms with their children. Organizations like Aegis Academy suggest that children shouldn’t be allowed to shoot .22 caliber firearm until they are at least 8 years old. Meanwhile, more prominent national organizations like the National Rifle Association suggest that the right time is when the child “expresses interest” in shooting.
Firearm experts Dick Heller, from the United States Supreme Court case DC v. Heller (2008), and Myah Baeza, PFC US Army, agree that the right time to teach a child how to shoot depends upon their cognitive development.
Heller explains that “their developmental and responsibility-awareness levels” determine the right time for children to shoot. Baeza concurs with Heller stating that “There’s no magic number. It’s when you (the parent) feel they are developed enough to understand the concept of muzzle/trigger awareness and what it means to own, hold, carry, and shoot a firearm.”
A large part of raising a child is helping them mature and grow into adulthood. Being able to understand and respect firearms is a part of that maturing and, certainly, includes learning how to shoot a gun. As for the right age, firearm experts agree that there is no magic number or set time-frame for learning how to shoot. Rather, the point at which a child is mentally capable of understanding and respecting firearms is the time in which parents should bring that child to the range.