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What Young Kids Do With Guns When Parents Aren't Around

Act 1: In a hidden camera experiment, children's reactions when they find real guns.
3:00 | 01/31/14

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Transcript for What Young Kids Do With Guns When Parents Aren't Around
Here, now, Diane sawyer with David Muir. We hope to begin a conversation all of us together, about something happening around us and we truly want everyone to weigh in, people who have guns at home and people who do. We learned just this week, every hour in America, a child or teen sent to the house with a gunshot wound. So, is there something we can do to keep it from happening? We want to be clear that tonight's not another debate on whether people should or should not have guns. We'll be checking online to find out what you're really thinking. We begin with a question, small children told not to touch a gun and what they may be doing when we're not looking. Reporter: In homes across America tonight, from Highfield lane to county road 170, from rural Georgia to walnut avenue, in New Jersey, every third house in the neighborhood on average has guns inside. Some locked, some hidden, some out and loaded. 1.7 million children live where there are unlocked and loaded guns and friends come to play. There's one right there. It's pretty hard to find that one. It's up there, mom. Sitting on the kitchen table. I have it in my juicy couture box. Reporter: Loaded guns on a bookshelf, under a pillow, in a backpack. Even a diaper bag? A handgun in a child's diaper bag. Reporter: But so many of the moms and dads are certain they have taught their high-energy children do not touch and do not play with guns. They know the consequences of not being safe with it. They're not toys. They're to be respected. They are taught to not touch them at a young age. Reporter: So, we wondered what are young children doing when parents are not looking. Come with us to mcmannis school in St. Petersburg, Florida, which helped us find parents and kids nearly all of whom had been taught don't touch a gun and tell an adult. 44 children and we took half of them to reinforce that message. The St. Petersburg police gave a safety class and they looked at the popular video from the NRA Eddie eagle. Stop, don't touch, leave the area, tell an adult. Reporter: The kids have it cold. Working with us, professor Marjorie sanfillippo of eckerd college, a published expert on pediatric psychology and gun safety. And so, we are ready. With full permission of the parents, we put seven cameras inside a room. In toy bins. In the butterfly on the ceiling. And then, after a few days, the St. Petersburg police give us guns -- real guns -- unloaded. We place them in a room, candy on the table nearby. And again, these are 44 good kids, most of whom know the rules by heart, and parents about to get the shock of their lives. As we begin this first group of boys are about to show you something you will see over and over again. Aw, look. Reporter: Their words say don't touch that gun, but their bodies can't seem to help it. Back away from it. Reporter: Think of it as a dance of temptation at the table. Leave the area, tell an adult! Reporter: And then around the room, even as they are chanting the rules -- a total of 20 times. They know to do it but they do not. And six minutes after finding that gun -- Don't touch! Reporter: They touch and dance again. Our second group of boys is about to do the same. Don't touch. Reporter: But they take only two minutes not just to touch but to pound the barrel. And then the third group. Don't mess with it. Reporter: Within ten minutes they take the gun out and do this -- professor sanfillippo says that a scene is too often played out in real life. These 3-year-olds who shoot themselves in the head. For whatever reason it's a natural thing to look down the barrel. Reporter: Right afterwards, this young boy is narrating what he's doing as he's crossing the line. I'm touching it. I'm pulling it. Reporter: His friend shows this is how you check to see if a gun is real. I'm just seeing if it's real. Reporter: Finally after they've had time to play, they get around to those rules. Help! Help! We found a gun. Two guns. I mean three! Two guns. Did you guys touch it when I was gone? No. Yes, yep, yeah. You did touch it when we were gone? Yep, we did touch it. You did, did you touch it? Reporter: And then what happens with our fourth group of boys? Well, professor sanfillippo has barely left the room when one of them sees the gun and in six seconds has pointed it at his face. They put it back, pull it out, put it back and then aim at each other. Another child trying to figure out a gun by staring down the barrel. And what kid gets a gun in his hand and doesn't want to pretend he's in the movies? Put the gun down! Dude, that is a real gun it's not funny. Reporter: The professor and the police officer ask for clarification. We both know not to pull it. And the first thing we were going to do when you came back in was to tell you. And you did, you told me right away. And then picked it up and you pointed it at me. We weren't going to like fire it or anything because we're both smart enough to know not to pull it. Reporter: Here we are, four groups of boys and our expert says a powerful truth. They can learn the knowledge, they can sit down and we ask them to repeat it. But you can't educate curiosity out of a child. Sflr so, you may be wondering, if there any kids who followed the rules and who were they? Well, for one thing the girls seemed to follow them much better. Only one girl out of 14 even touched a gun and most of them ran out for help. And there were also older boys who seemed to have more resistance. There in the red shirt is 10-year-old Kendrick, who acts like a crossing guard for the younger boys. It's a real gun. Reporter: He even tries to come up with a diversion. Just take some animal crackers. Reporter: And in another group, another older boy, 10-year-old Ari. There could be real bullets in there. I don't know. Maybe we'll shoot the window. We are not shooting anything, okay? Out the window? Yes, even the window. Because if we accidentally hit that, it could cost the turtle's life. So whatever you do, do not touch the guns. Reporter: Professor sanfillipo asks Ari to step out of the room to congratulate him on being careful around guns. You should be really proud of yourself. I am. When I saw the gun, I wanted to spring into action and I felt really good about that. No! Reporter: But with Ari now out of the room the younger boys are all alone. Do 5-year-olds really grasp guns and danger? When one the boys touches the gun, the other seems afraid and dives for cover. I'm gonna stay under the table, okay? I'm gonna stay under the table. Nope, no bullets. No bullets? Nope. Reporter: The frightened boy comes out and pulls the trigger just to be sure. Yeah, no bullets. Reporter: No fear left, one child pulls the trigger on his friend and then himself. It didn't shoot. When I pointed it at me, it didn't. Reporter: They know how to play dead, but as we saw over and over, do they really know what death is? We'll die. It's not until much later in childhood and in adolescence that children understand that death doesn't mean going to sleep. Reporter: After our experiment, David Muir sat down with some of the parents to watch the videotapes. A mom who said she'd been sheltering her son even from seeing violent movies or guns on TV. Oh, my god. I don't even like him watching the spiderman cartoons because it has violence and stuff in it. Reporter: Andrea bevan watching her 6-year-old and, by the way, his dad is in law enforcement. He was drawn to it, picked it up. Pointed it at himself, clicked the trigger a few times. Yeah, that's the toughest part to these guys, guns are about the same seriousness as crickets, frogs and cookies. Reporter: Another mom who thought her 4-year-old hadn't even seen violent media. That's scary. I have never shown him a gun and I didn't think he knew what they looked like. What were you pulling out? A gun. And what do guns do to you, when you pick them up and touch them? It can kill you. It can kill you. We walk away from them. And we don't be around people that have guns, okay? Yes, mommy. Okay. Yes, mommy. Wow. Reporter: And this mom who says she not only taught her son Jayme about guns, but told him stories from her job. She works in a hospital operating room, where doctors try to save children from death by bullets. He knows what I do. Where I work. Reporter: Jayme doesn't want to face his mom. Oh, god, I'm not looking. I'm not looking. Do you remember what your mom told you about guns? Yeah. What did she tell you? Like, sometimes they can be loaded or not and then like you're not supposed to like touch them or anything. What do you wish Jayme? I wish you'd just delete that. But what else. I wish I hadn't touched the gun. You wish you'd never touched the gun. I wish my mom hadn't seen it. Reporter: Overall, these were the results of our experiment more than half of the boys touched the guns even when promising not to. And the kids reinforced by Eddie eagle and the local police fewer of them touched but a lot of them did too. Why was the gun even in here. That's a very good question. You know why the gun was in here? Because we wanted to see what kids would do if they found a gun. Reporter: Showing us what so many parents say they wish they had seen. It just never would've crossed my mind to ask them if they had guns. Reporter: Experienced hunters. And you know you can't go around saying that can never be me. I never thought I'd be that person either. Reporter: And even the deputy sheriff policeman of the year and his wife who want to help everyone save another child by telling the story of a little boy and a gun way out of reach. Next -- is hiding guns the

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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