MWaG Facebook fan Dana Edwards Stallings asked a question yesterday that I’ve been meaning to talk about here. She wrote:
Any recommended articles on how to approach CC with my toddlers? I believe in an open, honest policy with my girls (ages 2.5 & 4) but I’m curious as to what Mom With a Gun recommends when they see mom carrying?
As it happens, I’ve been discussing this topic recently with a friend who’s the mom of three small kids and a new shooter and gun owner. So I have a few general thoughts, but I’m also thinking about going into some of these areas in more depth. If this is something you’d be interested in exploring more deeply, please let me know in the comments.
In no particular order, then, here are a few of my initial thoughts about making the choice to employ armed self-defense with little ones.
Approach the topic in an age-appropriate way. There’s obvious harm that comes from scaring the bejeezus out of your kids, but I think there’s also harm that comes from trying to sugar coat reality. You don’t want your kids’ first exposure to the idea that there are bad people in the world to come when they find themselves up-close-and-personal with a monster. For little kids, I might say something as simple as “mommy has a gun so she can use it to keep you safe.” Older kids deserve more information, and you’re the best judge as to what your kids need to know.
Make sure your kids know how to be safe with guns. If you’re going to have guns around your children, preventing tragedy is an absolute necessity. All the common-sense measures apply here: keeping your guns on your person or locked up at all times, teaching your kids the Eddie Eagle gun safety rules, and demystifying guns so they’re not some forbidden thing your kids feel tempted to explore. Kathy Jackson has an excellent article about this last subject, which is required reading in my view. As your kids get older and more responsible, teaching them to shoot is of course an option too.
Make your kids part of your safety plan. What this looks like depends on the age, maturity and personality of your kids, of course. For younger kids, I think that there are two useful things you might want to teach and practice with your kids. The first is a pre-arranged word (such as “emergency”) that means “something really bad is happening, so do what you’re told as quickly as possible and ask questions later.” Whether the emergency is a bad guy, a fire, or something else, there are times when seconds count, and in those instances it’s really helpful to be able to count on quick compliance. The other command word I think would be useful to practice and drill is the word “down!”, to which your kids should respond by dropping to the floor (behind cover if possible) as quickly as they can. This can be made into a fun game for the kids, but is also a way to get them out of the line of fire in a hurry. Older kids could take a more active role in safety responses, including helping to evacuate siblings or even (for kids who are old and mature enough) responding solo when they’re home alone.
Make the fact that you’re armed just a normal part of life. Notwithstanding the above, the best way to approach concealed carry with your kids is to present it as a normal part of your life that you don’t make a big deal about. We have fire drills and keep extinguishers in our homes and schools, but otherwise those measures aren’t something we make into a big deal. We practice the skills, we maintain the equipment, and we know what to do when there’s an emergency. (As a matter of fact, when I was a summer camp counselor, I remember once having an actual fire in the middle of a fire drill. We just quietly went ahead with the drill and the campers were none the wiser.) Carrying a firearm is much the same thing, and if it’s normal and not a big deal for us, it’ll be normal and not a big deal for our kids.
All that said, I want to add one important caveat and a request to you, my readers. My experience in this area is limited by the fact that I’ve only had one child and because she wasn’t biologically mine, I missed out on parenting her when she was young. My experience with young children is all secondhand, through the kids of friends and family members, and so there’s a limit to what I can say about introducing small kids to guns. That said, I would love to hear from other parents who’ve tackled this issue. If you’re a mom (or dad) and you’d be willing to write a guest post about this topic, please drop me a note. I’m just one woman, and I’d love to include other voices in this discussion.