Preventing accidental shootings: Gun safety classes for kids

Kids as young as 6 years old can shoot on range

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor

ROANOKE, Va. - How can you prevent accidental shootings? Over the last two years, we've seen multiple children shot in our region because they had access to a gun.

Most recently, search warrants said, a 3-year old in Roanoke shot himself in the head at home.

"I learned to shoot when I was 5 years old and I shot this 22 right here," said Luke Tyler, who's had gun safety drilled into his head from a young age.

"If you see a gun do not touch it. Leave the room and tell an adult. if someone is pointing it at you, you leave the room as fast as you can and tell any adult you know," said Tyler.

At just 7 years old, he knows what can happen.

"There was a gun on the table and the 9-year-old picked it up and accidentally shot his 12-year-old brother," said Tyler. "I thought he should have known better and now he's going to know all of his life that he killed his own brother."

"When you think about and hear about a child having access to a firearm, my first thought is 'Why do they have access to it?'" said Mitchell Tyler, Luke Tyler's dad and the co-owner of SafeSide Tactical.

"There's just no excuse for an adult with a firearm in the home to make it accessible to a young child. The triggers are easy enough to pull for a 2-, 3-year-old," said Mitchell Tyler. "There's something that we're wired with to want to pull the trigger. That's what it's there for."

SafeSide started a class for kids called First Shots. Kids as young as 6 can learn about gun safety and shoot on the range.

"Part of what I like about First Shots is trying to take some of that mystery out of firearms and I think that's a parenting technique that I use," said Mitchell Tyler. "Don't make it the forbidden fruit. Don't make it so that when you go to that neighbor's house and they see a gun for the first time they want to pick it up and pull the trigger."

He also has another rule in his house.

"We really didn't do the realistic toy guns in our home. That was from a very young age," said Mitchell Tyler. "The firearms that are made to look real, we really never wanted our children to practice unsafe gun handling in a toy environment or pretend environment where at some point they maybe in a real life environment with a gun that looks exactly the same. I can't expect a child's mind to switch that quickly."

For Luke Tyler, he looks forward to the few times he's shot at the range and always practices safety.

"Finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot," said Luke Tyler. "We treat a gun as if it was loaded."

First Shots costs about $15. The gun, ammo and supplies are included. More than 100 people took the first class last August. It's about three hours. The next classes are August 17 and 18 in Lynchburg and Roanoke. There are still openings. You can find information here.

Gun locks are about $10 and a gun safe starts at $15. There are many places you can pick up a free gun lock. You can find those here.

This is part of an ongoing 10 News series about kids and guns. There will be multiple stories in August about how to keep your family safe. As many police departments have told us during interviews for this series, it is not about being pro-gun or anti-gun, it is about locking up guns so kids and/or criminals don't have access to guns.

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