SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Kids and guns are a dangerous combination that all too often ends in tragedy. Are we doing enough to protect our children? We designed a simple test to answer that question.
Firearms expert and instructor, Clark Aposhian, brought two Glock handguns to our test room. He not only cleared the chamber on each gun and emptied the clip, he also removed the clip spring and the firing pin. He disabled them. "They still look real," Aposhian said adding, "But I cannot get these guns to fire."
Once the guns were disabled, it was time to hide them. I placed one in an open drawer in a small table and the other behind a pillow on the couch.
Also hidden in the room were two cameras.
Then we invited our subjects into the room. The parents knew what we going to do, but the kids did not. All the children were told was that their parents were having a "meeting" in another part of the building.
There were toys and snacks in the room, and the kids were invited to make themselves at home.
The kids were from diverse backgrounds. Some of the children had dads who hunted, others had shot air soft guns and still others had never seen a real gun before. There were six children in all, four boys and two girls ages 4-to-10.
It took 8-minutes for the first gun to be discovered. 4-year old Sophia found the gun in the table. She pulled it out and set it down on the table and then awaited for the other kids to notice. When no one did, she picked it up by the handle and waved it around. Still no one noticed. So, she took the gun over to 10-year old Lucy (the only other girl in the group) and set it down right in front of her.
Lucy asked, "Where did you find this?" Sophia answered, "Over there," pointing at the table. Without drawing the attention of the other children, Lucy walks over to the table and puts the gun back where Sophia found it.
Sophia said, "I was a good girl."
"Yeah," Lucy reassured her. "Just don't tell anyone, okay? Don't tell anybody you found it, okay?"
For the next five minutes, everyone plays on like nothing happened. In fact, by all appearances, the boys in the room were unaware of what the girls had done.
But then, Sage saw something black peeking out from behind a pillow on the couch. He removed the pillow and took a step back pointing at the 2nd Glock. Sophia excitedly went to the table and pulls out the first gun. "Oh my, there's two!"
As if the two belonged together, Sophia takes the gun and sets it on the couch. But Sage quickly covers up his find and Lucy takes the other gun and again, puts it back in the table.
We watch for a few minutes more, but none of the children touches either gun again.
During the test, while the one gun was waved around and even point inadvertently in the direction of other kids, at no time did we observe a finger on the trigger.
We brought the parents together and watched the surveillance video.
They gasped when Sophia picked up the gun and waved it around. They gasped again when Lucy appeared to point the gun at her head while examining it. Still, they gave Lucy credit for putting the gun away -- twice -- and not drawing undue attention. Lucy's mom said, "I am interested as to why she didn't go get an adult ...That she would just hide it, but I'm glad she got it away from the little kids."
Clark Aposhian added, "I saw a great maturity from a 10-year-old girl"
Still, parents were worried that 1) the guns were handled and 2) nobody thought to tell an adult.
Doctor Doug Goldsmith of The Children's Center in Salt Lake City reviewed our hidden camera video of the test. He was not ready to hand out kudos. "She just pointed it at her face instead of saying, "Oh, no. This is dangerous. I'm the oldest, we need help here."
He said our test, like so many others show that kids cannot be trusted to know what to do with something so potentially dangerous as a gun. "The research says that even when we teach the kids, they're likely to do exactly what we just saw," said Dr. Goldsmith.
He believes the only way to keep kids safe from guns is for parents to lock up those guns. "Lock them up and if there are guns around, make sure that adults are taking care to insure safety because we really can't trust that the kids are going to it."
Aposhian agrees that guns in homes should always be locked away, but adds that there times when guns may be found away from the home. "If you find a gun on a playground, what should you do?" he asked. To protect against the unexpected, he said education is also important. "Don't put your head in the sand and hope that your child will never find a gun," said Aposhian. "Expect that they will."
What should you teach? Aposhian said keep it simple, "Stop - Don't Touch - Get Away - Tell an Adult." Those eight words, repeated often, could go a long way to saving a child's life.