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You May Not Keep a Gun in the House, But What do You Know About Your Kids' Playdates?

A recent article suggests that as many as 2 million American homes with kids contain unlocked, loaded guns.

I was floored when I read this. I have six kids who have gone on countless playdates over the years. I never once even thought to ask the parents if they kept a firearm in their house. Parents make sure to tell caregivers about their children’s allergies. We make sure a parent or responsible teenager will be there to watch the kids at all times. We worry if there’s a trampoline or pool at the house and we ascertain that someone will be monitoring the kids while they’re jumping or swimming. But how many of us think to ask, “Thanks for having my daughter over to play, Mary. Oh, by the way, you don’t have a gun in your house do you? I just want to make sure my child isn’t accidentally shot”? Not only have I never asked this question, but no parent has ever asked me this question when I’ve watched their children either. I guess it’s just not something you think about.

But you should.

Katie Granju wrote about this back in January and made the valid point of Where do you stop? If you ask if they have guns in the house, then shouldn’t you also ask if they have liquor or prescription medicine in their home, or if they’ll ensure your child wears a seatbelt when in the car with them? It’s true that you need to use common sense and go with your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable with the parents then you shouldn’t let your child play there.

At the risk of sounding like an overprotective, crazy-mom, I still, there’s enough reason to think about gun safety and make sure the family of any potential playdate locks up any guns they might have. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a national gun safety advocacy group, states that half of gun owners, don’t lock up their firearms. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1.7 million American children under the age of 18 currently reside in households where guns are kept both unlocked and loaded. Those are some pretty scary numbers.

That’s why the Center to Prevent Youth Violence (PAX) has joined forces with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to designate June 21 “National ASK Day.”

Parents need to ask the parents of their child’s friends what the gun situation is in their house before allowing their children to have a playdate. Telling your children not to touch guns isn’t enough. As parents, we know how well children listen, right? Even the best, most respectful, obedient children can make a poor, impulsive decision. It’s what kids do. But when it comes to guns, those impulsive decisions can cost them or another person their life.

Griffin Dix knows firsthand just how dangerous unlocked guns can be. In 1994, his 15-year-old son was accidentally shot and killed by his friend who was showing off his father’s gun.

“It was devastating for all of us — including for the boy, who of course had no intention of shooting my son.”

What do you think? Is this a question all parents should ask of potential playdates? Or is it just overreacting and parents have to draw the line somewhere and just blindly trust the other parents to keep their children safe? Have you ever asked another family if they have unlocked guns? Has anyone ever asked you that question?

Planning Playdates: 6 Strategies for Playdate Success

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