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Q: My husband keeps both a hand gun and a hunting rifle at home. After many discussions on the subject, I have come to realize the important role it plays in his life. But what about my two young children? I keep wondering if there is a way of explaining to them the dangers that lie in these weapons. I have heard of too many accidents and want none of that in my life.

A: Your discussions with your husband were an important first step in preserving the safety of your home. If you have decided these weapons have a place in your lifestyle and in your home, a few more steps are required to assure that the guns are kept in their place. That task must be shared by both parents.

All guns are potentially dangerous. If you keep them in a locked cabinet, unloaded, with the key accessible only to a responsible adult, you have taken the most important initial step.

The second step is one of education. Most children are naturally curious and want to know all about the "thing" kept in the locked cabinet. They must be taught that if they ever find a gun lying about it is not a toy to be played with. The same goes for realistic-looking toy guns, even when they think they know it is a toy. The first reaction must be "stop," "don't touch" and then "call an adult." No ifs, ands or buts!

That's the rule, and it must be adhered to. If you have decided to keep weapons at home, then you should make the rules of responsible care and precautions a part of your life.

Your actions and those of your husband are most important; children will emulate their parents (in most things!). If you display the proper respect for the dangers of these weapons, and if you teach that respect to your children, you will have less to fear.

If you need more help, either in keeping the house safe, or in educating the children, check with your local police department or sheriff's office. Many have booklets or additional information that can be of great help to you.

Dr. Allan Bruckheim welcomes questions from readers. Although he cannot respond to each one individually, he will answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Dr. Bruckheim in care of Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.

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