Gun Safety and Kids

By: Brian Mastre, WOWT Channel 6

We talk with our kids about a lot of things: what to do if a stranger approaches; how to escape a fire; what to do if they find a gun. But unless they’re in that situation we never truly know how they’ll react.

We sat down with parents who got to see their children respond to a gun.

An Airsoft pistol looks like a real gun and is often mistaken for one. Trainer Shawn Whittington made sure it was not loaded with its plastic pellets and placed it among some fighting pads.

Whittington, with 88 Tactical, said, “For young children, we teach the same thing every time. You stop. You don’t touch. You leave the area and you tell an adult.”

The scenario is a simple one: 88 Tactical provided the gear for an anti-bullying class.

Before the children arrived we wired the room so their parents could watch the live feed next door. That’s when we revealed to the adults there was a gun in the classroom.

Theia Vonasek, a mother of two, said, “You always hope they’re listening and doing it on their own when you’re not watching. But you never know for sure.”

Theia’s home has guns, so the family has had the conversation with the 11 and 8-year-old in the past.

Brad Varn is a father who told us, “We have safes and I have trigger locks.”

Brad’s daughter Sophia was the youngest child in the group. She’s five.

After seven minutes of bully talk in the classroom, the trainer explained that he had to leave for a while. He encouraged them to punch the dummy and work with the pads while he was away.

“I’ll be back soon,” he said. “If you need anything, give me a holler,” and he left.

Within seconds, 8-year-old Bryce headed to the dummy. Sophia used her muscle on the pads held by new friend, 11-year-old Alease. After digging into the equipment, sister smacked younger brother.

Bryce said, “Nope. Didn’t feel a thing.”

Sophia gave the dummy named Bob her best shot.

Thirteen minutes after the trainer left, the children clearly had energy to burn.

Sophia said, “Hey! A gun!”

The youngest in the room was the first to point it out. With parents watching next door, mom said, “It was emotional to watch it.”

The unloaded pistol had been placed in the midst of the equipment to see how the children would react.

Sophia Varn shouted about the gun being in the container.

It appears the oldest in the group, Alease Vonasek, had already spotted it and quickly defused anyone’s notions about touching it.

Sophia’s father, Brad Varn, said, “When they’re alone and there’s peer pressure, it’s good to hear they acted like they should.”

But they didn’t get the teacher. They kept playing.

Seven minutes after Sophia blurted out, “A gun,” 8-year-old Bryce was still not aware of the discovery but then it caught his eye.

“Hey, I see a pretend gun,” he said.

While watching on a monitor in the next room, mom said, “He saw it. Thought it was a pretend gun.”

There’s no way he could tell it wasn’t real and the temptation to touch it was strong until the girls got in his ear.

Alease said, “That’s a real gun, Bryce. Don’t touch it.”

“Then why is it in there?” Bryce asked.

Sophia said, “Don’t you dare touch it.”

Bryce said “Touch,” but he never did touch it.

We sent the trainer back in and Bryce asked him, “Why is there a gun in there?”

Bryce was first to tell the trainer about the gun. We explained that we’d been watching the whole time.

Trainer Shawn Whittington told the kids, “You did an excellent job. You saw this and didn’t touch it. Excellent job! I would have appreciated you coming and telling me though.”

While the parents wished someone would have told an adult about the gun they couldn’t be more proud of how their children responded.

Theia Vonasek said, “It’s a relief to see them act appropriately.”

The kids later told their parents they didn’t get an adult because they were told to stay in the room and wait. The parents say they’re telling their kids it’s OK to break some rules – in case of danger.

On Wednesday afternoon, we’re teaming-up with the La Vista Cabelas for a gun lock giveaway – one per family. They’ll be giving out 1,000 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. If you don’t have one, it’s a great opportunity.

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