Guns are in the news daily — good or bad. Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation, a 501©(3) nonprofit based in Eugene, Oregon, is dedicated to providing Safety Around Firearm Education (S.A.F.E.).
While teaching adults self-defense firearm training, Founder and Chief Instructor, Derek LeBlanc, realized education needed to include children and families — in households with or without guns. LeBlanc said, “Guns are everywhere in our society so we want kids to learn what to do should they come across one: Stop. Don’t. Touch. Run away. Tell a grown up.”
Kids S.A.F.E. pushes no political agenda. Firearm safety education should be taught to all children whether or not there are firearms in the home and regardless of personal believe toward firearm ownership.
Gun issues are a hot topic. “This is strictly about safety,” he said. “we don’t want anyone to be hurt with a firearm.”
Teaching gun safety is no different than teaching kids how to swim, what to do in case of a fire, or saying no to drugs and alcohol.
“Parents are realizing that even if they don’t have guns in the home, their kids could have an accident in someone else’s (home),” LeBlanc said. “I don’t want people to not want to come just because they don’t have firearms.”
Kids S.A.F.E. encourages families to engage in open dialog because firearm safety ultimately starts at home. Having conversations has the potential to break down barriers when discussing firearm safety beyond your own household to discussing the topic of safety and security with other adults including the parents of your child’s friends. All adults (parents, teachers, community leaders, etc.) play a role in educating our children about firearm safety with the hope that through conversation, “ZERO firearm accidents is the only acceptable goal!”
When you drop your child off at a friend’s house, do you ask their parent if they have a pool in the backyard? If so, is it secured? In general, as a society, we prepare our children with swim lessons in case they are around water, we teach them what to do in an emergency, we practice what to do if an earthquake strikes, etc. Why are we not educating them on what to do if they come across a firearm?
Kids S.A.F.E. believes that providing free hands-off safety courses with the purpose of taking the novelty away from guns by exposing children to firearms and reducing their curiosity. Engaging in meaningful, open conversations can make firearm safety as mainstream as other safety education programs: fire, water, earthquake, etc.
Kids S.A.F.E. branches out to include a variety of other factors that contribute to gun safety, including toy guns and video game violence, stressing that these activities can teach kids bad habits — desensitizing them from the reality of firearms. Courses even touch on the topic of bullying and an appropriate way to deal with a negative situation: “Stop, Walk, Talk.”
Regardless of an individual’s personal belief, firearm safety should also be included in our children’s education because their safety is our number one priority. As adults, in general, we endeavor to provide a variety basic life skills, safety lessons, and guidance in dealing with difficult situations — overall promoting the raising of well-rounded children.
Kids S.A.F.E. continues to refine its firearm safety program through the use of classroom instruction, allowing children to see up close and/or touch an unloaded firearm so that children understand the importance of treating every firearm as if it’s loaded whether it’s real or a toy. The idea of customization of firearms is discussed because, although real guns are customized to attract adults, even toy guns can be altered to resemble real guns. And, as we know from news reports, toy guns being waved around in an aggressive manner can be mistaken by others (including law enforcement) as a real weapon. This is an issue we all, as adults, need to be aware of and take action with through education.
It is the goal of Kids S.A.F.E. to continue to expand, reaching as many children and families as possible. Outreach efforts also include in-school education — both elementary and middle — and it’s beginning to happen in our local and adjacent communities.
Other tools Kids S.A.F.E. uses to teach gun safety is through its hands-on applications: live-fire classes where students (accompanied by their parent/guardian) shoot .22 Rimfire rifles on a controlled range with certified instructor and range safety officers. During the summer months, while school is not in session, Kids S.A.F.E sponsors a .22 Rimfire League to provide constructive competition in a safe and fun environment. Our newly-acquired inflatable Daisy B.B. Gun Range gives us mobility to offer safety education with hands-on exposure where access to a range may be limited or does not exist.
Again, opportunities such as these, allow us to quench a child’s curiosity under safe, responsible leadership. Kids S.A.F.E. is a non-profit organization and relies heavily on volunteers, donors, and business sponsors to continue to offer its hands-off safety classes for free. Fundraising activities include the inflatable B.B. Gun Range at trade shows and various other raffles to help offset other costs associated with reaching as many children and families as possible.
“ZERO Firearm Accidents is the Only Acceptable Goal!”