Special Report: Kids and Guns

Would your child know to NOT pick up a gun?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Have you talked to your children about guns? 

Since June, more than a dozen Mid-South children have been accidentally shot while either they or another child were handling a gun. Safety advocates argue these tragedies are preventable. 

Good Day Memphis anchor John Paul learned, as a parent, whether you own a gun or not--- if you have children, you need to talk to them about gun safety.

Local 24 crews spent hours getting ready for a play-date. We set-up cameras to capture what would happen when curious minds, came face to face, with our hidden, unloaded BB gun. 

Parents gave us permission for four children, ages 4 to 6, to take part in our unscientific experiment. 

While the children believe they are here to have fun, the parents are here to watch and find out what would their children do - would they follow their parents' rules about avoiding guns. 

One of our moms owns a gun, the other does not. Both, though, were up front about telling their children to not play with guns. 

One child in the group, John Paul's own 4-year-old, never had that conversation. He and his wife don't own guns, but they wanted to see how his son and his friends would react. 

Once everyone was together in the game room, it didn't take long for all the parents to see how this would play out. While two of the kids ran downstairs to alert the adults about the gun, the two boys remained upstairs pointing the gun and playing with it. Both unaware of the potential dangers. 

"Very eye-opening," said Sarah Staples, parent. "Very eye-opening. Very scary." 

"Most children would examine it and pick it up, look at it, and play with it," said Paige Marcantel, Director of Baptist Women's Hospital's Universal Parenting Place.

As controversial as some might consider children playing with guns, Marcantel, a mother and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, believes it's our best teachable moment. 

"I think the teachable moment is that there are many parents who would think my child would never do that," said Marcantel. 

Bottom line: Never assume your child would know to not touch a gun.

"I don't think there's anything controversial in education," said Marcantel. "To me the fact that, that child did this, this is a great opportunity to educate that child, if that child is just being a kid." 

Because children's brains are still developing, Marcantel tells us, you need to have the conversation: early and often. 

"The more we talk about hard things with our kids, the easier we can make those hard things for them," she said. 

It's something our moms learned first-hand; it needs to happen whether you own a gun or not.

"One thing I learned from this experiment, it is important that I make sure that I put my weapon up when other guests is over, because, even though I told my son, other people may have not had a discussion with their son," said Katirria Coburn.

"Now that I've seen what my 6-year-old has done, it's going to be something that's done, at least weekly," said Staples.

How to Have the Conversation 

  • Marcantel said parents should talk about guns frequently.  
  • She recommends having that conversation every time your child spends time somewhere new, with a family member or a friend.
  • Start the conversation with: 'if you see a gun at grandma's, what should you do? Who should you tell?'
  • Good Day Memphis Anchor John Paul described having the conversation with his son almost daily.
  • Marcantel suggests using pictures of guns for younger children to talk about dangers. 
  • For older children and teens,you can relate news headlines and current events as part of your discussion. 

Gun locks are available for free at Memphis Police precincts. CLICK HERE to find your precinct.
The Eddie the Eagle Gun Safety Program can also help teach kids about the dangers of guns. CLICK HERE to learn more.
 


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