If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you have been or will be in a position to teach a young person the importance of firearms safety. When my husband and I had children, there was never a question that they would learn from a young age. It’s simply a necessity when there are guns in the home.
Up until recently, when they were finally allowed to don eye and ear protection and join us on the firing line, all this talk about gun safety was theoretical — and you can imagine how far that goes with a 3- and 5-year-old. They each have a .22LR Cricket, and they’ve handled their guns; however, the lessons were brief and with extreme supervision. Expecting a child not to flag someone on the range is one thing; expecting them to be able to apply that concept in their own home, where “safe direction” isn’t quite as obvious, is another.
While teaching firearms safety may seem like a common-sense task, creativity can be a huge asset when imparting important life lessons to young children. I could repeat the four basic rules of firearm safety until a mirage of Col. Jeff Cooper appeared before them, but after a couple of minutes, my lecture would start to sound like the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon. For children to focus and absorb, the lesson has to be age-appropriately engaging.
Julie Golob, U.S. Army veteran and decorated competitive shooter, recently released “Toys, Tools, Guns and Rules,” an illustrated book that explains firearms safety in a simple, child-friendly way. The colorful illustrations complement the narrative, which interacts with children by asking questions that apply to their lives and surroundings (“What are some of your favorite toys that look like tools?”). If there is one thing children love to talk about, it’s toys.
Golob recently shed some light on her experience learning firearms safety, how she taught her children and how she channeled that into a children’s book. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Q. How/when were you introduced to firearms and firearms safety, and how did that shape how you approached the topics with your children?
A. I learned about firearm safety at a very young age. Coming from a hunting and competitive shooting family, guns are a part of our lives. I learned that there were rules about firearms, but when I had questions, I could always go to my parents for the answers. This is exactly how my husband and I approach firearm safety education with our children. It really comes down to respect — for the firearm and for the fact that kids are curious. When you are there with a set of simple rules and the answers, it helps to take away the fascination and mystique.
Q. What motivated you to write a children’s book about gun safety?
A. Our industry has some outstanding resources for parents and children like the NSSF’s Project ChildSafe Program and the NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe. When it comes to firearm safety, I don’t believe you can have too many resources. Personally, I wanted a book written for younger children and one that went into a bit more detail about firearms, the different types and the dangerous components. I also wanted a tool that is relatable with human characters with both boys and girls. Firearm safety isn’t a male/female or race issue. It’s for everyone.
Q. People often assume that writers punch out an entire, perfect draft in one sitting, but that’s almost never the case. What was the book-writing process like for you? How did it differ from other writing you’ve done?
A. I wish I could do that! I love to write, but that doesn’t mean writing is easy. My first book, “SHOOT: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition,” was easier to write in many ways, whereas with “Toys, Tools, Guns & Rules,” I thought about the use and placement of every single word. I drew mock-ups of the pages and layout. I worked very closely with my illustrator, Nancy Batra, to get the right characters, colors and realism. Where “SHOOT” took a few months, my children’s book took a year from start to finish. I am very proud of the book.
Q. You are also involved with the NSSF’s Project ChildSafe. Tell us about that and how you got involved.
A. Project ChildSafe has so many facets and is such a great resource for the firearms industry and communities. With the distribution of over 37 million gun locks and additional resources for adults to talk to children about firearms, it’s an excellent program. I came on board with the program to host an educational video on how to have a conversation with kids about firearms. Safe storage and education about how guns save lives, and Project ChildSafe, in partnership with the firearms industry, is making a difference.
Q. In the current social climate, it’s even more important to discuss safety and our constitutional right to firearms ownership in a reasonable and responsible way. How have you approached that topic, and do you have any advice for other gun owners on how to have that conversation?
A. As gun owners, we are often frustrated with the lack of knowledge in mainstream media as well as a general lack of firearm safety knowledge by non-gun owners. Gun safety isn’t just a hashtag to us; it’s very specific rules regarding how we handle and store firearms. We have a huge challenge in educating the masses about our dedication to these rules that go hand-in-hand with responsible gun ownership.
Not everyone is comfortable being in the limelight when it comes to gun rights, but as individuals, we all can make sure that everyone around us handles and stores firearms safely when they are not in use. I don’t believe in casual gun handling; when we are deliberate and intentional around guns and firearm safety, we create an impression and an opportunity for education.
Julie Golob accomplishments
- Over 130 championship titles in state, regional and international competitions
- IPSC Ladies World Champion
- 15-time USPSA Ladies National Champion
- 7-time Ladies World Speed Shooting Champion
- 4-time IDPA Ladies National Champion
- 4-time NRA Bianchi Cup Military Champion
- 4-time NRA Bianchi Cup Ladies Shoot Off Champion
- The only triple-crown USPSA Ladies National Champion
- U.S. Army Female Athlete of the Year
- 2-time U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Athlete of the Year
- 3-time S&W IDPA Winter Nationals Ladies Champion
- 3-time NRA Bianchi Cup Ladies Open Champion
- 3-time USPSA Nationals Ladies Shoot Off Champion
- 2-time International Revolver Championships Ladies Open Champion
- 2-time American Handgunner Ladies Stock Champion
- National Record Holder in NRA Action Pistol and USPSA
- NRA Action Pistol High Master & Distinguished
- USPSA 7 Division National Champion (first and only woman)
- USPSA Women’s National Record – 7/8 Ladies Area Championship Titles (1999)
- USPSA Ladies Triple Crown
- USPSA 6 Division National Champion
- NRA Action Pistol – Women Mod. Moving Target National Record 480-23x