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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Arming yourself

We are living in a world with a great divide: to be (a gun owner, properly or not, and maintain one's right to bear arms and protect themselves and property) or not to be (a gun owner, and allow for the proper authorities to maintain peace and keep the bad guys at bay). Big big question.

I'm not going to tell you whether or not it's proper to have a gun in your home or on your person. I'm not going to tell you who should or should not bear arms. You have decide what is right for you, and it may very well change during the course of your life stages. I am, though, going to tell you two things: first, if you have chosen to have a gun, you absolutely must keep it properly stowed. Yes, this applies if you do not have children, too, because you just never know who might come by and how snoopy they will be. Really. Second, you absolutely must talk to your kids (of all ages) about guns, even if you don't have one in your home.

So the gun itself. To be completely condescending, 'properly stowed' means fully unloaded -- every single round -- locked, and in a place inaccessible to any youth of any age, including teenagers. The ammunition should be stowed in a completely different place -- maybe even a different room -- also locked. I realize that if you do as I am suggesting, it does make it a little harder to use the gun should, for example, a bad guy break into your home. He or she are not going to wait patiently while you unlock the gun, then unlock the bullets, and then load the weapon. Clearly, if they've broken into your home, they probably have some moral deviations, and are likely to take advantage of their upper hand. Truly, I am sorry about that. What I am suggesting is indeed going to put you at a bit of a disadvantage in that particular situation. However, your children -- the amazingly clever and curious beings that they are -- will be infinitely safer and much less likely to come to harm if they cannot have access to both your gun AND your ammunition.

Example. Say your kids happen to find your gun. (Yes, they do go through your stuff. Unless it is locked away, at least one of your children has pawed through your private stash of whatever. Sad, but true. They love you, and are so very curious about you.) So they found it. They will touch it. They will pick it up. They will play with it. They may know full well it is not/not a toy, and they may know it is dangerous, but curiosity is such a powerful force. The cat is not the only one to come to harm from it. And know this: there are very few places that truly are 'out of reach' to your kids. They are freakishly capable of getting into every nook and cranny in your home.

So the conversation with your kids. Absolutely talk to your kids about guns, even if you don't have one in your home. Others will have one. Their friends' parents might have one, and you want your kid to be prepared when they happen across one. Or (probably worse) they will see it if/when their friend brings one they found to school. You absolutely have to talk to them about what they should do when (not if) this happens.

Go beyond 'do not touch it'. Give your child a full script for what they should do in different circumstances with guns. Tell them exactly what you would like them to do, and have them repeat it back to you until you are confident they understand and own the response. Even a two year old can do this. Sure, as your kids get older, you can get more into reasons, and background, and the whys, but for the younger set, they just need to know what you want them to do.

Remember this: curiosity + peer pressure is a formidable equation. You may be talking about guns with your child early on. Unfortunately, they will not alway be in the company of other kids who have heard the same mantra. How good is your child at saying no to a friend? Is this the situation where you want to learn the answer to that question? Wouldn't you rare know for sure? Guns do not always equal death, but nothing good can come out of one being in the hands of a child. Absolutely. nothing. good. And yes, you 18 year old, you fall into the 'child' category.

Also, let's talk a minute about the power of knowing something BIG, and being able to show off to friends. Kids are kids and kids love love love to brag. Even though your kids know full well they should absolutely not touch any sort of gun, there is a such a sense of power to know something as big as that, and to be able to lord it over their siblings or their friends. This is Lord-of-the-playground-for-a-day B.I.G. Your kid needs to realize that though this thing, this tidbit, this gun, knowing this will be SUCH a thing at school, it is not for him to share. Guns are not for show and tell, and guns are not a topic to be shared with friends, no matter how cool they want to appear. If you decide that you need to own a gun, this is YOUR gun. This is not your child's gun. Point to be made.

At my house, early on in my reign as mom-of-three-boys, as every stick, longish rock, or what-have-you became a (pretend) gun, I realized how differently boys play than girls. Which is totally okay, but it also drove home the point that I had to help them understand how important it is to be safe. To me, a gun -- imaginary or otherwise -- is not a toy, and a gun is not safe. To a little boy? It is a required accoutrement for one's ninja/cowboy/super hero/race car driver/fireman ensemble. Duh, mom. So we have the talk. I do my best to answer their questions, and we talk about the latest gun incident; sadly, there is almost always a new news story to talk about. Still, stick guns reign, no matter how hard I try to dissuade. Makes me realize that I am be anti, but my boys? Not so much.

Okay, one last difficult conversation you need to have in the topic area of guns: do you know whether or not the new friend your child just HAS to have a play date with has gun-owning parents? Are you prepared to ask them? I know, this is one of THOSE topics, like religion and politics that we are not really supposed to ask about, but when you weigh the possibility of your kid maybe being around a gun with an uncomfortable conversation, I think I would be able to find the words. Excuse the uncomfortable topic with a preface of recent (multiple) news events where kids are getting shot but their siblings or young neighbors. Do not hint around; be direct. Get to the point you are worried about: is there a gun in the house? If so, is it easily accessible to kids? Are the bullets stored with the gun itself? Find out, because it's better you do it beforehand, than the topic come up after something horrible has happened.

This is a little knee-jerk, and perhaps not as smooth as one could try to be when broaching a topic like this. These are uncomfortable topics. These are not fun conversations. But broaching them will help you help your kids better understand the complex and dangerous topic of guns. They have questions, I promise you. Help them see your point of view. Help them better develop their own view. It's important that they know their own mind, without the influence of the cool factor or peer pressure.

Arm yourself and your kids with a well thought out stance on guns and access to guns. Keeping our kids safe is so much more important than worrying about what political stance one should take on this topic.

Alrighty, hopping off my soap box now...

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