In North American culture, we continuously hear about the danger of firearms, the harm they can bring, and the left ideology that says we need to ban firearms altogether. This rhetoric tends to motivate Canadians to think that firearms are the foundational problem in society.
But in the countless debates that people have over firearms, a topic rarely mentioned is the importance of educating children and teens about firearms. Early education can teach populations to think critically and understand how to use firearms safely.
There is no denying that guns are dangerous; however, the solution to addressing firearms is not by avoiding the topic altogether but instead by properly providing information and safety tips for using guns. This information provided to interested people can teach them fundamental aspects of legally owning and operating firearms.
Like it or not, guns do exist, and many people own them. And for people who properly use firearms, shooting can be quite enjoyable. Whether it's target practice, skeet shooting, or hunting, guns can provide entertainment, recreation, and a way of life for many.
According to Canada's Department of Justice website, estimates indicate that 3 million Canadian civilians own firearms. It is likely you own or know someone who owns a firearm, and if you ask around, you will find many people who will attest to the feeling of security having a defence mechanism in their home brings them.
So why do we avoid educating youth about guns? The children in our education system probably have family or friends with guns but don't know a single thing about adequately handling them. This can lead to many consequences due to a lack of knowledge.
Statistics from the U.S. Gun Violence Archive states that from January to April of 2017, 197 children 11 years or younger were killed or injured by accidental shootings. Many of these occurred when children did not have the proper training or proper knowledge about the firearms stored in their homes.
In Canada, we can prevent these things from happening by allowing educators and parents to teach children gun safety. Experts say that it's critical not to avoid gun safety and that we must prepare children for what to do when they encounter guns.
It is more important to help kids understand gun safety and respect rather than gun fear. Gun range owner and former police officer Chris Rainey stated in an interview with The Washington Post that;
"The dialogue I think we need is, 'Guns aren't going away, so we need better education.' When you teach people martial arts skills, they learn how to avoid using it. It's the same with firearms: We teach kids how to use it and how NOT to use it."
No matter your political ideology, we can all agree that something must be done to prevent youth from losing lives from gun violence or accidental shootings. And that means taking class time, ーwhether it is in a civics, physical education, history, or health classー to discuss gun safety.
Questions that must be addressed in these classes include:
What should you do when encountering a gun? Experts say that the "Just Say No" approach in programs like DARE or Eddie Eagle cannot provide proper safety and training. Instead, instructing children and teens about handling firearms properly and the dangers/benefits of owning weaponry is a much better approach.
Who can obtain a gun license, and how can you receive one? Rather than banning guns altogether, let's focus on ensuring the proper route to getting a firearm; owning a gun license. Statistics show that the rate of shootings in Canada is higher in those who are not correctly licensed.
There are more important topics surrounding guns, but these two are out of the question. If we expect adults to be responsible for handling firearms, we must first start by teaching them as children about properly handling firearms.
It is the responsibility of teachers and parents to teach children to recognize and avoid any danger and provide safe environments. We all have knives in our kitchen, but any good parent will tell their children from a young age about properly handling knives.
Good educators don't expect their students never to encounter danger, but instead, prepare them for the moments when they do face risk. Young Canadians should not have to learn about guns on the fly. Instead, they should receive safe, honest education about the importance, benefits, and of course, the potential danger that is involved when it comes to firearms.