Special Needs Kids and Guns

gvb2000-image-1I had a chance to talk on the phone with the inimitable Kathy Jackson today, and we had a terrific chat. One of the things we talked about was a problem that’s vexed me for some time: How to use a firearm for self-defense, and how to empower our children to be able to defend themselves, when our kids have developmental or mental health challenges.

As I’ve alluded to previously on the blog, my daughter “Nutmeg” was adopted from the foster care system. She had a great many things happen to her early in life that should not, in my opinion, ever happen to a child. (I’m going to leave it at that out of respect for her privacy.) But the result of those early traumas is that Nutmeg has some challenges in the areas of impulse control, judgment, and decision-making.

Obviously, those traits could be dangerous when combined with the presence of a firearm. However, they also manifest themselves in behavior choices on Nutmeg’s part that increase her risk of victimization. So, what’s a parent to do? After chatting with Kathy about the issue, here are some things I came up with:

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A Teachable Moment

I’m going to be shooting an IDPA match this weekend, and my teenage daughter (whom I’ll refer to here as Nutmeg, one of her nicknames) will be attending with me. For a variety of reasons, this will be her first trip to the range, so we spent some time last night talking about safety. We talked about the four basic rules of gun safety, and I added a fifth. “When we’re handling guns, if an adult tells you to STOP, it means you’re doing – or about to do – something unsafe. If that happens, you need to freeze right where you are, and wait for the adult to tell you what’s happening that’s dangerous.”

After we talked safety, she wanted to learn a bit about gun handling. It happened I had a Glock Blue gun nearby, so I grabbed that and we did a brief lesson on the basics of gun handling – stance, grip, sights, trigger. While Nutmeg was practicing aiming, I noticed her finger drifting to the trigger. “STOP!” I told her.

She obediently froze. “Where’s your finger right now?” I asked her.

“On the trigger.”

“And is your gun pointing at your target right now?” The target was a 1/3 scale IDPA target I’d cut out of a cardboard box for practice.

“No…” She paused for a moment. “I know the safety rule says keep your finger off the trigger until your gun’s pointed at the target…but that’s silly, because this isn’t a real gun. It’s just a piece of plastic!”

Inwardly, I smiled. Nutmeg was about to experience what they call “a teachable moment”.

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