Children’s gun classes stress hands-off message

With gun ownership on the rise in Southern Nevada, gun safety is a priority for local gun shops, especially for children.

Pinecrest Academy of Nevada, 1360 S. Boulder Highway, was considering adding a gun safety class this fall.

The school’s principal, Reggie Revis, said in a July 31 email that a gun safety class would not be offered because the school’s insurance company advised against it.

Nearly 800 youths 13 or younger were killed in gun accidents from 1999 to 2010 nationwide, and nearly one in five injury-related deaths of children involves firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For Kim Smith, an instructor at Guns and Ammo Garage, 5155 Dean Martin Drive, such statistics are troubling because she believes most of those deaths could have been avoided if precautions had been taken.

The two biggest reasons for gun accidents are “carelessness and ignorance,” she said.

In an effort to curb such accidents, many gun stores offer free safety courses for children and adults.

“They’re free because we’re all dedicated to promoting safety education,” Smith said. “People who are purchasing firearms want to be responsible with them.”

And while mass shootings such as those in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., gained national attention, children are far more likely to be killed by guns at home. Guns — whether by accident or intentional — are linked to more child deaths than cancer, heart disease or infections combined, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A 2010 Gallup poll found that about 40 percent of American households have guns. In Clark County, there are 1.2 million handguns registered with the Metropolitan Police Department, with registration up 58 percent through May over 2012 figures.

Most gun ranges offer the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program, designed for children in third grade or younger.

“We teach the kids the basics,” Smith said. “If you see a gun, stop, don’t touch it, leave the area and tell a responsible adult.”

Smith also teaches a junior gun safety class for children 10 or older, where they learn to safely handle a firearm and get to shoot a .22-caliber rifle and handgun with NRA-certified instructors.

“This way, if they go home or go to a friend’s home, they won’t be the curious kids that have an accident,” Smith said.

The Guns and Ammo Garage offers the Eddie Eagle and junior gun safety classes at 11 a.m. on the last Sunday of every month. Families are invited to come to the classes, and a parent must be present for the junior class.

At The Gun Store, 2900 E. Tropicana Ave., Gwen Eaton teaches similar safety classes for kids. The Eddie Eagle course is scheduled from 4 to 5 p.m. on the second Friday of each month. The next class is scheduled Aug. 9.

Most of the responsibility is on the parents, Eaton said. Guns always should be secured from children.

“Especially with parents who have guns in the home,” she said, “telling them not to touch doesn’t work. As soon as the parents are gone, they’re looking through your drawers, closets — it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Karen Kaeding brought her 6-year-old son, Karson Tait, to the July 12 class at The Gun Store. Karson has been shooting with his father since he was 5.

“He’s so young that I want to start him off right with safety,” Kaeding said. “He’s showing such an interest in it. … If that’s what he wants to do, it’s important to teach him the proper safety.”

Smith said every child should learn firearm safety and education “whether you have firearms around or not.”

“Firearms are present in the world,” she said. “If they go to a friend’s home, if they learn about education, they’ll learn not to be curious and to not play with firearms.

“We’re not trying to teach kids how to shoot. We’re trying to teach kids how to be safe.”

Contact View reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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