Is it best to discourage my son from guns or to teach him how to use them properly?

Question: I am the mother of a three-and-a-half-year-old boy. Many of his playmates have toy guns and other ‘‘violent’’ toys. We do not have any and I try to discourage him from playing with them at a friend’s house. However, lately, he has been constructing ‘‘guns’’ out of LEGOs and playing ‘‘shooting game,’’ explaining that he is only shooting monsters. My question is: Do I still try to discourage him or do I go out and buy a gun and try to teach him about gun safety? My husband believes he should have one and we should teach him the pros and cons. My husband is not a gun owner but did have a BB gun when he was a kid and ‘‘nothing ever happened to him.’’ I’m really torn on this issue.

Answer: Your husband grew up in a much different world, but I respect his opinion, and suggest that if teaching gun safety is his concern, that can be done at a firing range using guns provided by the range. In other words, having a gun in the home is not a requirement of teaching gun safety.

Here are the tough questions you are facing:

The question of whether to keep the location of a gun secret from a child is easy: You may elect to treat it as a secret, but never, ever rely upon the belief that a child cannot find a gun in the house. Even a denier will have trouble finding some meaning hidden between the words never and ever.

The toughest issue is whether or not to have a gun in the house at all. Since my perspective is solely the safety of your children, it’s easy to conclude that for most families, having a gun in the house increases risk. That isn’t just the conclusion of this one expert, but also of the National Center for Victims of Crime, the National Crime Prevention Council, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Center for Health Statistics, and most relevant to our topic, the American Academy of Pediatrics.

No exploration of your child’s safety can be complete without taking a clear-eyed look down the barrel of these statistics:

I hope this information makes your decision easier.