While we all come to terms with the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last monday, August 25th, 2014, where a young girl shooting student accidentally shot her instructor in the head with a fully automatic, 9mm Israeli Uzi machine gun pistol, we should also use this as an opportunity to learn and develop further in the training of youth shooters.
I have personally trained dozens of youth shooters aged from 9 to 18 years old (beyond 18 we can call them "young adult shooters") and there are some very strict differences that must be observed in training as compared to adults. Be your stance on gun control pro or against, few can argue that if training is to be utilized--and training should ALWAYS be utilized--that proper training techniques should always be developed, modified for the individual shooter and carefully followed without exception.
First, and most important rule for any youth shooter to follow (and any adult shooter for that matter), are to know and understand the 3 main rules of firearms safety.
Adults can be a bunch of smartypants'. They don't want to be lectured, told what to do and are looking for any reason to take exception with what you say or how you say it. Kids are different, though. They are used to regimen and formality. Be it from school, sports or what-have-you, kids will adhere to rules faster and more competently than adults will (usually). Always point the gun in a safe direction, Finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, Gun unloaded until ready to fire.
Second, get parental guardians permission to "handle" their kids(s).
Bridging that perceived, delicate gap of what is instructional and inappropriate does not apply here. If guardians insist that their children are not to be touched in any way during instruction then it is time to send them all on their way without instruction. When I train kids, I literally wrap myself around them from behind in order to ensure that the firearm can he controlled from either side and that there is zero chance that anyone, including myself, can be injured. Something go wrong? I've got the gun sandwiched between mine and the youth shooter's hands. Parental guardians are ALWAYS present for such instructions.
Third, "step up" the shooting even more than with adults.
Any good shooting instructor knows that you don't just hand over a fully loaded magazine of ammunition to a new shooter and give them the go-ahead. You begin with one round. Have the student remove the magazine and load 2 rounds, remove the magazine and load 3, and so on until the shooter is both truly confident with the firearm and demonstrates good safety and control. With kids it has to be taken a step further. I usually will allow no more than 5 rounds at any given time to be loaded into a magazine for a youth shooter under my instruction. This ensures that I can easily count off the rounds being fired and it also allows the young shooter to endure less fatigue when holding up the firearm. The combination of weight, recoil and the use of muscles in the neck, shoulders and back that are not commonly strained can take its toll on a young shooter until they have developed those areas and become more comfortable in time. Keeping the round count to 5 helps ensure that the firearm will be lowered or put down for reloading within a realistic amount of time.
As an instructor, we cannot take lightly the fact that our responsibilities encompass everything that transpires on our range during our tutelage. Safety first, good instruction next and a solid understanding of our students are all necessary to ensure that articles like this one never have to be written again.
This Jew Shoots Guns... and understands that the title to this post might be a bit harsh, but drives the point home pretty clearly.