Does Teaching Kids to Shoot Guns Make Them Safer?


When she isn’t training, Gia’s guns are strictly off-limits and her father keeps them locked up, even though Adolfo said he believes Gia would never disobey him.

“I would bet my life that she would never touch a gun that she wasn’t supposed to or try to try guns," he said. "I don’t care how old she would be. I bet my life on it.”

But critics argue that’s a risky bet for most parents because training and trust may not be enough to prevent accidents.

Dr. Denise Dowd of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City helps write policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She says kids’ brains simply aren’t mature enough to be trusted around firearms. They lack impulse control and their critical thinking skills are still developing, she said.

“Kids are impulsive, and you can't teach that out of a kid,” Dowd said. “You can teach them, they can ‘parrot’ back, they can show you how safe they are, they can load it, they can clean it. But they should not be in independent control of that weapon because they're impulsive because they're children.”

At her hospital alone, Dowd said there are 30 to 50 cases annually of gun-related kid tragedies that, she said, are entirely preventable.

“No child exercises good judgment. Any parent knows that,” she said. “It doesn't take a medical degree to be able to, you know, tell anybody that is that you don't trust your kids 100 percent of the time, especially when it comes to something that is so high risk, right?”

One National Institute of Health study found that nearly half, 43 percent, of homes with children and firearms reporting having at least one unlocked firearm, and firearm deaths of children are at least 10 times higher in the United States and in any other industrialized country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Jodi Sandoval keeps a memorial of her son Noah in her living room at her home in Columbus, Ohio. Noah was 14 years old when he and his best friend Levi were playing at Levi’s grandparents’ house and they found a gun hidden behind the television.

“He removed the clip, and he pointed it at Noah, and he fired a shot,” Sandoval said. “He didn't realize there was a bullet in the chamber.”

Levi didn’t know he had killed his friend until police told him during their interrogation. He pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and was sentenced to one year probation.

Sandoval says she doesn’t blame Levi for her son’s death. During Levi’s trial, she even testified on his behalf, asking the judge to lower his sentence.

“And while Levi made a horrible, terrible mistake, it wasn't an accident that a gun was left out where it could've been stored and locked away,” Sandoval said. “My son didn't have to die the way he died. He had a future. He was so ambitious. He had a future ahead of him. He had love ahead of him.”

Even though a study published in the journal Pediatrics showed states that enacted safe storage laws saw a decline in accidental firearm deaths among children, only 14 states have safe storage laws. Ohio is not one of them.

The NRA, which declined our multiple requests for an interview, has repeatedly opposed such laws, saying the laws infringe on gun owners’ rights to effectively protect their homes.

However, the organization does recommend that guns should be stored securely until ready for use, making sure that they are not accessible to children.

For the sharpshooters in Texas, gun safety is top priority for the Sure Shots, but it’s clear that these tween shooters and their parents believe deeply in the right to bear arms at any age. What remains unclear is the impact this next generation of gun enthusiasts will have on the future of the gun industry.

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