How to Talk to Your Family About Your New Gun
8 critical communication rules for safe firearm ownership when you share your living space with other people
- Let others living in your home know that you have a gun
- Provide children and teens with age-appropriate education about guns
- Lock up guns and store ammo separately
- Remove guns from the house if someone is at risk of suicide
- Talk with other gun owners about their gun storage and firearm safety practices
Once you buy a gun, you need to ensure that your family and guests in your home are safe and responsible around it. You should also consider your children's safety when they go to other gun owner's homes because everyone uses different storage methods and safety protocols.
Talking about firearms may feel awkward at first, especially if you're a new gun owner, but it's important to be proactive about having these types of conversations. To help you get started, this guide provides tips and advice on how to talk with your family about your new gun.
1. Let others in the home know about your gun.
Ideally, when you purchase a firearm, you should let everyone who lives in the home know that you're bringing in a gun. This allows them to take their own safety precautions. For instance, if you have a roommate and they bring guests with children over, they can let their guests know to stay out of the part of the home where the gun may be.
2. Talk clearly with children about guns
Even children should be told that you have a gun. Show them the gun and let them know that real guns aren't like they are in TVs or movies: People don't get shot and then reappear in another show.
When people get shot with real guns, they can die. Young children, in particular, don't understand the permanence of death, and you need to be very clear that guns are dangerous.
3. Use triple-safe storage
Telling a child that a gun is dangerous is not ample protection. Children are naturally curious — that's how they learn about the world. And you don't want to put them in a position where their curiosity may override the lessons you've taught them.
To keep children and adults in your home as safe as possible, lock up your gun using triple-safe storage. Store the firearm in a locked firearm safe or lockbox and lock away the ammunition in a separate spot. Then, put a trigger or cable lock on all unloaded firearms for a triple layer of security.
Try to use lockboxes that have codes rather than keys — children can easily find keys and get into storage. If you need to store a firearm in your vehicle, follow these same rules and make sure the firearm is locked up and inaccessible.
4. Advise children to walk away if they see a gun
Even if you are diligent about locking up your guns, your children may occasionally be in a situation where they see an unlocked gun, and you need to ensure that they know how to keep themselves safe. Tell them to walk away and tell an adult about the gun. They should understand that they should never touch a gun on their own.
5. Consider training children and teens about guns
Training is a critical part of firearm safety, and children and teens should be trained on how to use firearms safely. Consider giving your children an age-appropriate lesson on how to load and unload the gun, put on the safety, and visually assess if the gun is loaded or unloaded.
As children get older, take them to a range to learn how to shoot or enroll them in hunter's safety courses so they can learn more about gun safety. Hunting is a great way to learn about firearm safety — when children see how a bullet can stop the life of an animal, they develop more respect for these tools.
6. Look for signs of suicide risk
Having a gun in your home can be dangerous if anyone is at risk of suicide. Understand the signs that someone may be considering suicide, such as talking about suicide, withdrawing from family and activities, being preoccupied with death, increasingly using drugs and alcohol, making unhealthy changes to daily routines, and developing personality changes.
If you see any of these warning signs in someone in your family, recognize that your firearm may be a risk and store it somewhere outside your home. Ask a friend if they can keep it for a while. Then, talk with the person you're concerned about and help them get help.
7. Keep guests safe
In addition to talking with the people who live in your home, you may also want to talk with guests about your firearm. If your firearms are locked up, not visible, and not accessible, you don't necessarily have to mention them to your guests.
However, if they are kept unlocked in some area of your home, you should let guests know that they are not welcome in that area or that their children aren't safe in that area, and you should entertain them in a different part of your home.
8. Ask others about firearm safety in their homes
When you go into other people's homes, speak candidly with them about their firearms. Don't be shy — most people are very comfortable talking about their firearms. But to avoid confrontation, don't approach this topic in an accusatory way. Instead, just ask honestly and openly.
For example, you may say something like, "My child is very curious, and I want to ensure they are safe. Do you have any unlocked firearms in your home?" Or even just ask them about their firearms and how they keep them stored.
When talking about your new firearm, be open and honest. Educate adults and children in your home about firearm safety and don't be afraid to talk with other gun owners about the safety protocols in their homes. Ultimately, the most important thing is to take responsibility for your own firearm by storing it as safely as possible.