In the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a lot of parents have asked how their children can be safe at school if something like this hits closer to home.
This is a national discussion that, I hope, will be ongoing and will result in some really smart actions on the parts of school officials. However, there are two simple concepts you can begin teaching your children now.
What does gunfire actually sound like?
Kids should know what live gunfire sounds like. Believe it or not, even seasoned policemen can sometimes be fooled by the sound of a gunshot since it can sound like a car backfiring, a firecracker, or just a loud POP.
Take your child to a shooting range, even if you are not going to actually shoot!
If you go to an outdoor range, park a distance away and let them hear the sound of gunfire without any ear protection. Move a little closer and let them hear a few shots without ear protection and then with ear protection. By the way, you can purchase inexpensive foam ear plugs at any drugstore or Walmart. (I usually wear “foamies” along with ear muffs.)
Indoor ranges will require everyone to wear ear protection and they will loan it to you, but even with that, there will be no doubt what gunfire sounds like.
IF, and that’s a very big IF!, your kids ever hear gunfire, they will be able to identify it quickly and take action, whether it’s running away, calling for help, or taking cover. Considering that a bullet can travel thousands of feet per second, every second counts when it comes to staying safe. Compare that with the length of time required to find a phone, dial 911, give a coherent explanation of a live gunfire event to the operator, and the arrival of police… just sayin.
Concealment vs. Taking cover
Kids need to know the difference between “hiding”, or concealment, and “taking cover.” I’m a full grown adult, but I could “hide” behind a silk tree in my house or under the kitchen table. Neither would protect me from much danger at all, much less gunfire, but it might conceal me from a bad guy with really bad eyesight!
“Concealment” is simply hiding behind or under something. It’s possible that hiding place might conceal them from a bad guy, but simple concealment is no protection from a bullet.
In movies you’ll often hear one character yell to another, “Take cover!” Taking cover means hiding behind or under something that offers real protection from gunfire. In a typical commercial building, including schools, this could be a concrete or brick wall. If school classrooms have metal doors, that is a better cover than a wooden door.
Teaching these concepts to your kids
Sadly, the Sandy Hook shooting has been in the news so much that most kids have heard about it. The fear is already there. What probably is not there are techniques or a strategy to use if something like that should happen in their own school or at home.
If your kids have been talking and asking about what happened, you may as well get to the point about discussing ways to stay safe and get it over with. Kids appreciate honesty and directness and probably have plenty of worries they may not have voiced.
They’ve already learned about cyber security (never give your name, age, address) and much more. Equipping them with information and some practice when it comes to staying safe from gunfire makes sense in this day and age.
To parents who hate guns…
Even if you personally hate guns, raising children who are completely ignorant of gun safety rules and how a gun works is negligent parenting, in my opinion. We teach them about fire safety, bicycle safety, how to dial 911, and staying away from Mr. Stranger Danger, but too many parents pretend that guns don’t exist when it comes to those safety talks. With 200 million guns in America, no parent can afford to stick their head in the sand and wish for a different reality.
Blunt talk, I know, but Hollywood, video games, and the media make guns seem so exciting and glamorous that kids, especially boys, become fascinated by them. Once kids learn just how loud a real gun is and learn how to be safe around them, and that includes handling them safely, guns lose their allure.