Recently the Moms Demand Action group formed in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, which, according to news reports, is advocating to prevent unintentional firearm deaths among children by educating parents and gun owners about responsible gun storage.

Fine. But if you want to address gun safety in this region, and across this country, aim those prevention efforts lower. Allow guns in schools and literally get them in the hands of children.

At issue here is educating kids about firearms to put facts into their heads that otherwise will be filled with fears.

Of course, we’re speaking to the choir here. Our region and the state overall have a pro-gun culture that starts early with kids plinking with BB guns and .22 rifles at the rock pit, and moving on from there to fish and game education courses, and on to hunting rifles and shotguns. Our kids know guns are a tool that like any other, if used incorrectly or irresponsibly, can cause hurt or death.

But not every kid here knows this. Definitely, in the large urban areas across this nation, kids have little to no exposure to the gun culture we take as a part of living here, and so grow up with their understanding shaped by what they see in entertainment and from the influence of their parents and teachers. And given the default setting many parents have with abrogating their responsibilities to the state for nurturing, educating and even feeding their kids, schools will have the largest impact on how children treat and regard guns.

Safety starts with familiarization.

Get your police and conservation officers, and sportsmen to introduce this tool to kids in a controlled setting. Take that gun apart, let them handle the pieces to see this is just a machine. Impress early on the essentials of what this tool is and in what supervised settings only this may be handled. Kids should see a firing range in action to see how guns are responsibly handled.

Obviously this serves pro-gun interests, but the aim here is not to create membership for the NRA. Rather, it is to give kids the base knowledge to be safe, information they can then build upon with their own questions and exploration for how they will view guns and evaluate the issues involving them when they are adults. Even if in adult life they become firearms opponents, the better their voices will be in the discussion – having a factual, hands-on understanding of guns — to address concerns for safety, control and regulation in context and with respect for the other side.

Guns are an inescapable part of American culture that are constitutionally protected for good reason; they aren’t going anywhere. To address the impasse in this argument, let’s arm our kids with information early to better make them safe, and then as adults they can find solutions based on reason and understanding, and not acting out of fear and feelings.

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