Youth and violence

How to talk to kids about guns

Everyone who works with young people has a responsibility to teach them what to do if they see or hear about someone with a gun. Women Against Gun Violence, an organization based in Oakland and Los Angeles, California, offers the following age-specific tips on what to say.

For children ages 3-8, you might say:

If you see a gun at a friend’s house . . .

If you’re in a house and hear gunshots . . .

If you’re outside and you see a gun . . .

Talk about how not to get into fights;
help your child think of nonviolent
ways to solve problems.


For children ages 8-10, you might say:

If you’re at school and a friend or another student takes out a gun . . .

Talk about ways to solve fights
without violence of any kind.


For teenagers, you might say:

If a friend carries a gun . . .

It puts you in danger. Too many things can go wrong, especially if there are drugs and/or alcohol involved, or if there’s an argument. The result can be deadly. The best thing to do is separate yourself from any person with a gun. About 80 percent of people killed with a gun knew the person who pulled the trigger. Make sure your friend knows you’re not stupid enough to think that carrying a gun is cool.

If you feel you are in danger and think about getting a gun for protection . . .

Understand that you can protect yourself in other ways. When someone carries a gun, it is more likely to be used against him or someone he knows rather than against an unknown attacker. Walk in well lit areas after dark and avoid walking alone; take a self defense class; carry a personal/body alarm.

To stay safe . . .

Avoid people and places where you suspect violence might flare up easily, such as parties where there will be a lot of drugs and alcohol or "hang out" areas where violence has erupted before.

Have willpower. If you become involved in a conflict, refuse to resort to violence as a means of resolving it. Learn about conflict resolution and mediation — take a course, then teach your friends.

It may be difficult to talk to teenagers about a subject like this. Here are some suggestions that may make it easier to discuss guns and gun violence:

Some discussion questions you might use with teenagers: