My wife and I were blessed with eight children – six daughters and two sons. I have taught Texas LTC, along with Florida and Utah CCW classes for years. All of the kids have been to the range with me and I have talked them how to operate a firearm safely. Most of them don’t get too excited about shooting pistols at a paper target but they love to shoot skeet.
When I only had two pistols years ago, I let the children know emphatically that they were never to touch them and because I had their respect and because they were obedient, it never was a problem. Also, they were high and out of the reach in my closet. However, when I got my permit and started carrying concealed, Texas law requires that handguns are not accessible to anyone under age 21 without adult supervision. (Interestingly, the law says that if a child uses a firearm in the home to defend themselves, it is a legal defense against the violation of the law that the handgun was accessible to them to begin with. Talk about a legal conundrum!) So at some point, I did purchase a large gun safe – though now I think it should have been about three times as large – preferably with a spare bedroom!
About four years ago, we began to be foster parents. We started by hosting a young lady from Latvia and have also hosted young ladies from Russia, through a ministry called Project 143 (p143.org). In order to do so, we have to have a visit by a social worker to the house. The regulations require that all guns be in safes, so that they are never visible to the children while in our care. Additionally, they require that ammunition be stored in a separate safe. So I now have a safe in another part of the house that stores ammunition and I keep my firearms in the main safe. I am somewhat unsure of why social services requires ammunition to be stored in a separate safe unless they think there is a possibility that a child might be able to guess the unlock code for one safe but not apply it to the other one. I do know that none of my firearms have ever loaded themselves. So I keep most of my ammunition in a separate safe, but always carry a few boxes of defensive rounds in the main safe where my handguns are stored. Fortunately, no social worker has ever asked to examine the contents of the safe. They have been content to just see the safe and know that firearms were locked up.
As my firearm collection grew, I purchased two extra drawer-style safes in which to keep rifles or lesser-used firearms. So, now I have a total of four firearm safes throughout the house. All of the firearms stay locked in those safes except the one that I wear. While we have foster children with us, I can only carry concealed. When they are not with us, I sometimes choose to open carry just emphasize the privilege that we have in Texas of being able to do that. However, I still carry concealed 90% of the time.
I do have one or two strategic places of firearm storage in the house that are disguised to look like something else, just to make sure that my wife and I know where to access a firearm quickly in the case of a dynamic critical incident. When we do not have foster children in the house, there is usually a firearm in the spots. Even though no social worker would ever see firearm in either of these places, I still adhere to the letter of the law.
It is something of a right of passage in my home when a child turns 21 and they can attend one of my concealed carry classes and get their own permit and we can shop for their own firearm. Not every child immediately wants to do this. However most of my children were very quick to take advantage of this when they get their 21st birthday.
So, over the years I have gone from having to pistols on a high shelf with instructions to my only two children to never touch them to having four safes and well-designed hiding places for firearms with eight children plus foster children visiting us occasionally. Because I have seen well trained people do stupid stuff with firearms in a careless moment, I am a big fan of keeping firearms locked up. I don’t really agree with having to store your ammunition separately from your firearms. I do have a safe for ammunition storage to comply with the social services. But I still keep a handful of defensive ammunition inside the safe so that if I need to access the safe quickly, I can also grab a box of ammo.
The handguns in my safe are in two conditions. Handguns that I use for my training classes are cleaned and unloaded with the slides racked back. Handguns that I might choose to wear for self-defense or that my wife might choose to use, are always loaded. There is a rule that says a firearm should be unloaded until ready to use it. However when I put my handgun in my holster, I deem that it is ready to be used at that time. So my firearms carry around in the chamber and a full magazine. I never handed a student a loaded firearm, but I would never put on a pistol that did not have one in the chamber unless it was illegal to do so in a state in which I was traveling.
Just for the record, I don’t think that anyone needs 4 safe’s worth of firearms. So, if you are reading this, please understand that I am not a gun nut. I think that my wife and I could probably do everything we wanted to do with only four handguns and a couple of long guns. However, I am a firearms instructor and have purchased a number of firearms that I use for training classes. Additionally, when each child got old enough to handle a rifle or shotgun responsibly, I got them one of their own. These also stay locked in my safe unless we are going to the range. There is only one exception to that. My son who can legally own a shotgun of his own will take his gun out of my safe and keep it accessible to him if I am out of town on a business trip and he needs to defend his mother and his sisters. When I return home, his firearm goes back in my safe.
I will tell you that every child is different in their abilities to follow instructions, their hand-eye coordination, and the rate at which they mature. I usually make my children wait until they are 17 before teaching them how to drive. Most of them are mature and quick learners at that time. However, I had one daughter that took nearly 2 years to learn to drive well enough that I wasn’t constantly concerned about her. She is one of those easily-distracted people. So just as the differences in children affect their ability to learn to drive, it also affects their ability to handle firearms safely and responsibly. You need to be sensitive to the differences in children and be patient and kind when teaching them so that they both handle a firearm responsibly and so that they will love shooting because it is a valued and treasured memory of something they did with their parents.