English Parenting The foreign life

Why it is imperative we keep kids away from guns

It has happened again.

Today an 8 year old girl died after an accidental shooting in Atlanta.

Yesterday a 3 year old boy died after his brother found a loaded gun in the house and shot him while playing “cops and robbers”.

Even if these were the only two, that should be more than enough. Enough to make authorities weight on the matter. Enough for society to stop thinking that to keep a gun in a house where children live is acceptable. Enough for it to stop. Because these two tragedies, and the many others that we see in the news on a weekly basis, are totally preventable.

One of the biggest cultural shocks I have experienced since I arrived to the US happened at a Virtus training for my son’s school. Catholic schools require you to attend this three hour workshop in order to chaperone field trips. Although it mainly deals with child abuse, while brainstorming about how to keep kids safe in sleepovers someone came up with a suggestion that gave me chills. He would ask if there were firearms in the house. As a foreigner raised in a country where having weapons in the house is very uncommon, and requires to pass tests and medical exams, it had never occurred to me that parents could keep guns close to their kids. But from that day on, it did.

In a country where everything related to our kids is controlled by laws, it is surprising that having guns in the house is not considered a safety risk. We strap our kids in car seats, don’t let them play alone outside, and soon enough it won’t be allowed to smoke in the car with them. But it is ok to have weapons in the house.

If you have kids, you know that this is a bad idea. I have three boys, and I have to keep butter knives hidden. Imagine what I would have to do with a gun to keep them safe. Because, as a mother, I know that whatever I tell them, regardless of how many warnings I give, a child’s curiosity will always overpower common sense. Kids are programmed to explore the world and learn from it, to experience, not to be inactive witnesses to life, but to rather live it. And a weapon is too much of a temptation to leave around them.

When I was growing up in the countryside, my brother, 18 years older than I, had a hunting license. That is one of the cases in which you are allowed to own a shotgun in Spain, provided you keep it secured, and the ammunition is stored in a different place than the gun. But I have vivid memories of my little cousin and I playing with the wooden box full of colorful cartridges. We were probably not more than 8 or 9. But we were able to find them. And we were also able to find the shotgun. We never loaded it, and no one ever found out. But had we chosen to do differently, a tragedy could have ensued, even when all the measures meant to keep us safe were taken.

That is one of the fireplaces at my parents' house. That shotgun belonged to my grandfather, and is meant as decoration. It hasn't been loaded in a long, long time. But I will still make sure it's out of there this Christmas.
That is one of the fireplaces at my parents’ house. That shotgun belonged to my grandfather, and is meant as decoration. It hasn’t been loaded in a long, long time. But I will still make sure it’s out of there this Christmas.

I truly feel sorry for the parents of all these children, and I wouldn’t wish anyone to be on their place. But patting them on the back is not going to prevent the next death. The true victims of these tragedies are the kids themselves, the 3 year old, or the 6 year old sibling who will have to live his whole live knowing that he killed his little brother. The 8 year old girl who was having her hair done when she was shot.

There is no such a thing as a safe gun. There is no place in a house that a little kid cannot access. So, before you buy a firearm, before you put it in your house, weight your options. Remember these kids. Think about your own. And if you still to go ahead and buy it, take all possible measures to keep them safe.

As for me, when I go back to my parents’ house this winter, I will make sure that there are no weapons left. That there is no colorful ammunition that my kids can play with. That I, the person responsible for their safety, keep them safe.
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