By Amanda Murphy
HOLLYWOOD — Since 1963, three times more children and teens have died from guns on American soil than U.S. soldiers killed in action in wars abroad. Although many of these incidents occur accidentally, they could be prevented through gun safety education.
For a lesson on gun safety, 29 Police Explorers gathered at the Native Learning Center Dec. 10 where Seminole Police Officer Kyle Boyd presented the 12 Golden Rules of gun safety – No. 1 being “Always treat the gun as if it is loaded.”
Boyd told the story of a sergeant he worked for in the prison system whose 18-year-old son decided to show his friend his father’s gun. The gun accidentally went off and killed the friend, putting the son in jail for manslaughter.
When Boyd asked if any of the Explorers knew of guns in their house, a handful raised their hands.
According to federal statistics, there are more than 200 million guns in the U.S. spread out across half the households in the country. A gun kept in a house is 43 times more likely to kill someone the family knows than to kill someone in self-defense. And even if there are no guns in a house, chances are a friend, neighbor or relative has a gun that a child could come across.
Boyd used the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) gun mascot, Eddie the Eagle, to demonstrate the steps to take when a child encounters a gun:
Stop. Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.
The NRA encourages schools, law enforcement officials, clinical psychologists and parents to use Eddie’s four easy steps to teach gun safety.
A good time to start teaching children about guns is when they begin to show interest in them through video games, TV shows or toys, the NRA suggests. Simply ordering children to stay out of the gun closet may stimulate a child’s natural curiosity to find the gun, but talking openly about guns and answering all the child’s questions removes the mystery.
It’s important to clarify the difference between entertainment and reality in reference to guns, as children often see them used haphazardly on TV and in movies. When they see a character shot and killed in one movie appear in a different movie, their views of guns may be distorted.
“The most important thing [for parents to know] is to keep [the gun] out of reach of those who are not familiar with handling a gun,” Boyd said.
At the end of the presentation, Boyd showed the Explorers a video with examples of gun negligence, including people accidentally shooting themselves or others because of poor gun handling.
Another video displayed proper gun etiquette when handling guns, which is helpful for children who are already familiar with guns from hunting or practicing at a shooting range. This video emphasized knowing the target and never pointing the gun at anything not meant to be destroyed, including walls. Oftentimes, people don’t realize that bullets can go through walls and shoot people on the other side of them.
To close the meeting, Boyd sent Explorers home with gun locks and the important reminder that Brandon Cypress repeated when asked what he learned: “Never touch guns.”