Firearms are dangerous. There are roughly 3,000 deaths a year in the US from firearms for children and youth between birth and the age of 19. Most “child” homicides are among youth between 15 and 19. Next are suicides among youth between 15 and 19. There are only a relative few accidental firearms deaths in children in the US every year, around 200. And those could be prevented.
Where does most gun violence occur?
“… high rates of poverty, illicit drug trafficking and substance use all increase the risk of becoming involved in gun violence. In addition, “criminals often engage in violence as a means to acquire money, goods or other rewards.” … law-breaking criminals are the ones most responsible for gun violence, not law-abiding citizens…
… “Unintentional firearm-related deaths have steadily declined during the past century.” Accidental deaths resulting from firearms accounted for less than one percent of all unintentional fatalities in 2010.
… when guns are used in self-defense the victims consistently have lower injury rates than those who are unarmed, even compared with those who used other forms of self-defense. __ Guns.com from a CDC study
All Dangerous Children develop mastery in firearms safety, maintenance, and use. But not all children will become Dangerous Children. How should parents of ordinary children approach the issue of “children and firearms?”
For young children, below the age of 7 or 8, the firearms avoidance method taught by the Eddie Eagle program of the US National Rifle Association is reasonable: Eddie and his friends teach children that if they ever come across a gun in an unsupervised situation, they need to STOP! Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown-up.
This simple approach teaches the child to be wary of firearms, to stay away from them, and to notify an adult if they see a firearm within reach. Safety training becomes more difficult if the child has been exposed to a lot of firearm violence on cartoons, television shows, movies, and video games. This is particularly true for younger children, for children with lower IQs, and for those with poor executive function.
Parents must be strict with themselves about the safe storage of firearms and ammunition (PDF). The safest firearm is one that is unloaded and stored safely out of the reach of everyone but authorised users. Ammunition should be stored in a safe and separate location.
Famed firearms training institute Frontsight offers many training programs for youth and adults. Programs offered for children provide training in wall climbing, rope work, unarmed self defence, and firearms training. Think of it as a very expensive introduction to limited aspects of Dangerous Child training. 😉
Frequently, police or sheriff’s departments will provide firearms safety training for youth. The NRA offers several youth programs for firearms safety and training.… Crickett Firearms safety resources
Laws restricting availability of firearms to the public do not appear to reduce rates of firearms violence. It is possible that a “waiting period” before purchasing handguns may slightly reduce rates of suicide by firearms, in some jurisdictions.
How was Al Fin trained? When Al Fin was 10, his father would take him out in the open range to set up targets for practise with a .22 calibre rifle, progressing from there. The training was strict and thorough, and no loaded weapons crossed the threshold into the home, after shooting sessions. No weapons — loaded or unloaded — were ever pointed toward another person. Safety on and finger off the trigger, until ready to fire. etc etc etc.
In the Dangerous Child Method, children are first trained with air rifles. When the child demonstrates proficiency and responsibility with air rifles, they can progress to low calibre firearms. Progression to larger rifles and handguns is not recommended until the youth has demonstrated years of proficiency with smaller weapons of lesser recoil — and has had a chance to grow more padding and stronger bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Children under the age of 8 do not have well-developed executive functions, and children below the age of 16 are still undergoing significant brain development in regions involved in judgement and perspective. Just as importantly, most of today’s youngsters have grown up exposed to heroes who frequently shoot bad people, and have played first-person shoot-em-up computer games to exhaustion. Unfortunately, they have absorbed a lot of bad programming before they ever get their hands on a firearm. Any instructor of child firearms safety and training must keep all of that in mind.
Some scientific studies suggest that children under the age of 7 (before executive function development) may not benefit appreciably from firearms safety training (see references). It is likely that children who do not watch television, violent films, nor play violent video games, will pick up firearms safety training more readily. Unfortunately, such studies do not usually control for important variables such as prior exposure to violence, race, neighborhood type, marital status of families, level of supervision, etc.
One child may find a loaded firearm belonging to his mother’s boyfriend, and take it over to a friend’s house to show him, for playtime. In some neighborhoods kids will frequently see gang members carrying and displaying firearms, sometimes noticing the admiring glances thrown at the homies by teenaged girls. Some of the young kids will have even witnessed shootouts between rival gangs, or drive-by shootings. And sometimes the child will use a discovered firearm to even a score on his own.
The common denominators include lack of supervision, lack of positive male role models, frequent exposure to real, play, or portrayed violence, and lax control of loaded firearms by “grownups” in their immediate environments. Throw in life-long child-level intelligence levels and poor impulse control, and you have the recipe for an early start of life-long senseless violence.
Statistics for child firearm violence include accidents, suicides, and homicides — in ages up to the age of 19. Not much can be done to keep gang-bangers away from firearms, so a portion of those statistics should be seen as a given for inner cities and other ganglands of youth. For some of the others, stricter parental and adult control over firearms and ammunition would help.
The 3,385 firearms-related deaths for age group 0-19 years breaks down to:
83 for which the intent could not be determined
20 due to legal intervention
Of the total firearms-related deaths:
73 were of children under five years old
416 were children 5-14 years old
2,896 were 15-19 years old
The above statistics are from 1999. You are welcome to guess how many of the 15-19 year old firearms deaths were gang related.
US child mortality rates for children of all ages are trending downward — by almost half since 1990. This is true for accidental deaths, homicides, and disease. Even child “disappearances” are down. Most child disappearances are runaways, with most of the rest due to custody disputes. Roughly one in a thousand “child disappearances” are from actual kidnapping by strangers.
Firearm violence, violence against children, and violence in general tend to concentrate in particular places. You may not realise, for example, that:
Blacks are seven times as likely as people of other races to commit murder, eight times more likely to commit robbery and three times more likely to use a gun in a crime. __ Patrick Buchanan on The Color of Crime
Besides the close supervisions of firearms and ammunition in the home, the next best preventative against being injured or killed by firearms may be knowing which countries and which parts of cities to avoid.
Violence — by firearms or other means — tends to cluster in particular populations and regions. This is partly due to genetics, and partly due to culture.
Whenever you travel outside your own neighborhood, it is important to understand where and by whom violence is likely to erupt. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Sooner rather than later.