Several weeks ago, an article from Parents magazine was making the rounds on social media. In the piece, the author stresses the importance of asking families if they keep a gun in their house, as well as how it’s stored, before allowing your child to play there. I live in a fairly liberal city, and my boys are still really young, so it’s not something I had given much thought to before. According to the article though, 1.7 million American children live in a home with unlocked, loaded firearms. Meaning there are a lot of kids with easy access to dangerous weapons. It gives me sweats and heart palpitations just thinking about it.
Since my boys’ playdates are still supervised, I’m not sure it’s ground I have to cover just yet. I was curious though how a parent broaches the subject with another parent. How do you handle it? Is it really considered a personal question?
So, I asked a friend with older children if she lets her kids play at a home where they keep guns. She told me that she had seen the article herself and so had started asking the question. She found out that at least two of her 6-year-old’s friends lived in a home with guns. She said one assured her that it was kept on a high shelf, only accessible by ladder, and that the other has a locked gun safe. Still, it made her feel sick. It made me feel sick too. We both have boys who are adept climbers and extremely curious. While they might not be able to crack a safe, they could very possibly get to a high shelf with enough motivation. Motivation like, “Hey, here’s where my Dad keeps his gun. Move that nightstand this way.”
Obviously, most parents who do have guns are responsible owners who want to keep them out of the hands of their own children. You hope they’re doing the right thing and keeping them locked up or unloaded. But what about the teenage older brother who knows the code? What about the Dad who took a phone call, got distracted, and forgot to close up the gun safe? What about the kid who knows about the gun in the shoe box in Mom’s closet and wants to show his friends? The article stated that in 22 percent of homes where parents believed their kids had never handled a gun, they actually had. They’re lucky nothing terrible happened.
If I trust the parents, I would have to trust their system. But I don’t trust guns. I think they’re scary. Knowing they’re so accessible makes me feel unsafe and vulnerable and sometimes anxious about crowded places. Would I knowingly send my kids to play somewhere that they could potentially find a gun? And fire it? To people who own guns and are comfortable around them, I probably sound like a misinformed, overprotective mom. I’m okay with that assessment. I didn’t grow up with guns. I’ve never held one in my hands. What do I know? Nothing really, except that I don’t want my boys anywhere near them.
My friend said that she’s thinking of just not letting her kids play at their houses at all and instead, just offering to host at her house. Is that wrong? Does it make things awkward? Does it seem judgmental? Is it overly-cautious?
When it comes to the safety of your kids, I’m not sure it matters. Doing a walk-through at a friend’s house every single time I send my kids over seems a lot more awkward and dramatic and helicoptering than simply inviting them over to our place. It seems way simpler to tell another parent, “Look, I have no judgments about you keeping guns in your home. You should do whatever feels right to you and I absolutely trust that you’re being safe and responsible. But, guns make me nervous so we’d love to have you guys over here to our house instead.” I hope another parent would respect my views as much as I would want to respect theirs.
I guess I’ll see what happens when they get older, and start playing at other kids’ homes unsupervised. I just can’t imagine that another family’s feelings are more important than the safety of my children. Where do you stand?