Some Bay area parents hope putting a gun in their child’s hands could help arm them with gun safety knowledge and save lives.
Instead of taking a hands-off gun safety approach, parents are taking their kids to the range at Shooters World in Tampa where the kids are taught how and when to pull the trigger.
10News WTSP watched as kids young as 6-year-old Karalily, 8-year-old Anthony and 10-year-old Jacob learned about guns, gun safety and shooting.
“We’re going to be learning about gun safety,” says Shooters World instructor Ann Gorman.
Before the kids ever touch a real gun, Gorman teaches them how to separate the fun of shooting from the dangers of handling a gun outside of the range.
“You don't know whether it's real or not,” warns Gorman.
Estimates show there are more than 300 million guns in the U.S., more than the number of people. Experts say, even if you don't own a gun, it's better kids learn proper gun safety before they come across one.
“If they're not being educated and trained properly in understanding how to safely be around a firearm, how to respect what It can do, where they're going to be educated is television, movies, and video games. That's the last place we want kids being educated about how to behave and handle firearms,” says Shooters World lead instructor Jared Douds.
The kids learn what to do if they discover a gun from NRA mascot Eddie Eagle.
“Stop. Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult,” the kids recite in class.
“I have absolutely no fear,” says Karalily’s mom, Krystal Strause. She doesn't feel her daughter's too young to learn how to handle a gun. The 6-year-old even has her own rifle.
“I've taken the steps before to teach her, before owning an actual firearm, to respect them. She understands that she can do real damage,” says Strause.
Jacob and Khloe's parents are new gun owners, but worry more what could happen when the kids aren't at home. “Our kids are at someone else's house, for whatever reason, there happens to be a gun without an adult there, we want them to know what to do,” says father Marc Duqella.
The range also has safety classes for older kids interested in the sport of shooting, even making it a career. “I’m going to be a police officer when I'm older, so I really want to try out guns and see how they work and stuff,” says 15-year-old Jonah Cooper.
Whatever the target, parents hope the class keeps their kids and others safe.
“I want him to be demystified of guns,” says mother Colleen Inglehart, who enrolled her 16-year-old son Deane in the class.
“I think it could save so many lives,” Strause says.
Shooters World has an introductory gun safety class for kids for $60. It’s designed primarily for students 8-12 years old, but there is flexibility in the age requirements for the class.
Shooters World also offers a Youth Introduction to Firearms class designed for students 11-15 years old, but there is some flexibility on ages with advanced notice.
The group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America believes the best way to reduce gun deaths among kids is to keep weapons out of the hands of children altogether and insists gun deaths among kids aren't accidents, but preventable tragedies.
The group tracks unintentional child shootings on its website. So far, there have been at least 84 child shootings in 2016, 7 have been in Florida.
The organization has launched a program called Be SMART that teaches adults safe gun storage practices. “We don’t believe the responsibility should fall on little children to avoid guns or practice safe storage policies, we believe adults must take the lead. The program is based on five simple steps: Secure guns in homes and vehicles, Model responsible behavior, Ask about unsecured guns in other homes, Recognize the risks of teen suicide, Tell your peers to be SMART."