Growing up, we had a gun in our house. My sister and I knew exactly where it was hidden, but we had enough common sense never to touch it, talk about it, or go anywhere near it. We rarely watched films that glorified violence and knew that it was there in case our family needed it for our protection.
Luckily, my parents never used it.
Now, if you’ve turned on the television, read an article online, or listened to the radio in the last few weeks, you’ll know that gun violence is everywhere. It’s a huge problem in our country and it only seems to be getting worse.
I’m sure you know the stories — a 5-year-old boy finds the keys to the family’s gun cabinet and accidentally shoots his 2-year-old sister. Another toddler finds a gun in his mother’s purse and fatally shoots her in the head. And then there’s the 6-year-old boy who found his father’s gun on top of his refrigerator and decided to play cops and robbers with his 3-year-old brother. He shot a bullet that struck his brother in the face, killing him instantly.
Sure, we can spend months and months discussing how we are going to solve this horrific problem, but I’m not here to do that. Instead, I want to pose a different kind of question to parents: Is it OK to ask a mom or dad about their gun possession and safety rules before scheduling a playdate with your kids? And would you be comfortable sending your child to a home that had weapons in it?
I’ve thought about these questions many times now, especially after I was at my pediatrician’s office and saw a poster in the waiting room that detailed all the steps parents should take in order to ask the questions no one wants to ask. The only problem is, so many of us are too scared to say anything. And for the longest time, that included me, too.
With all the news about children being shot by other children in our country, gun safety has become de rigueur for parents who want to schedule playdates. Research shows that 1 in 3 families with children have at least one gun in the house, so there’s a good chance that there will be a gun in the home. But I’m sure many of us don’t ask because: a) we think it’s impolite, and/or b) we’re simply not used to it, because what’s in my house is generally my private business, right?
Well, right and wrong.
You see, as much as I don’t want to be put in the awkward position, I also don’t want my family on the nightly news. I don’t want us to become another statistic. And as much as I trust myself and my children to make the right choices when it comes to playing safely, I don’t know what goes on in other people’s homes behind closed doors. I don’t know if there is a safety lock on the gun or if it’s stored in a place that won’t be accessible to children. I don’t know, and that’s why I should ask, I want to ask, and I will ask. We will talk about it if our children continue to be friends.
Kids as young as 3 years old are strong enough to pull a trigger. I don’t want to know what my children are capable of doing, and I’m sure you don’t either. It will probably be the most painstakingly awkward conversation we’ll have, but it’s something we’ll need to get used to. I mean, if we can talk about food allergies, peanut butter, and sunscreen, surely we can talk about this, too.