It's a new school year and a new school for my five year old. He and I are both very excited for kindergarten. Lots of new things to learn, lots of new friends. We spent some time this summer getting to know a few of his classmates and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before he'll be clamoring for playdates with all the kids in his class.
I'm more than happy to host other kids over here, but C adores seeing new houses (and playing with other kids' toys). This always raises questions about supervision and safety among families I don't know well and I have to put on my big girls' panties and ask some important questions before I let my son go to new houses. The biggest, hardest question is about guns. I always ask about guns in the home before playdates. If my son had pet allergies or a fear of animals, I'd ask about pets. If he had food sensitivities, I'd talk about hazards. It's just a safety questions that I ask. I also tell people about our firearm and pet status before their kids come to my place.
So far, I've never had a parent tell me there was a gun in the home and the main safety risk my son usually faces on playdates is whatever head-bonking bed jumping activity he and his friends come up with. But people often ask me what I'd do if a parent said yes. That's a hard question. The logical thing is to ask more questions about storage of the guns and make my decisions based on full information. Except…what's safe enough?
I am admittedly ignorant about guns. I once took a handgun course at a gun range to try and understand a boyfriend's affection for guns, but that's the end of my experience with them. I don't know how to handle a gun safely. I don't know how to store a gun safely. I don't know what a gun safe or a trigger lock looks like or how to tell if it's working properly. In other words, I don't know how to assess the safety of someone else's gun storage system.
Related: The 10 biggest secrets parents hide from their kids
I decided to ask some experts in gun use to find out what they think. I spoke to three people, all parents. Abbie grew up around hunting rifles and her husband is in the military, though they do not keep guns in their home now. Lisa is a federal agent whose husband is an avid hunter and they do have guns in their home. Finally, Steve is a federal agent who gave up his personal weapon after having kids. They gave me a rundown of what gun safety precautions to look for before allowing my son in a house with guns. Click through to see what they said!
Abbie, Lisa and Steve all said that ammunition and weapons should be locked up in separate places. Lisa actually said, "If people keep a weapon loaded (some do), I wouldn't let C go. I don't care if it's locked up; kids can find keys and learn codes."
Steve said trigger locks should be engaged on any weapons. "There are several different types of locking mechanisms, depending upon the type of firearm. All essentially do the same thing, which is physically prevent the weapon from firing (with a cable, padlock, etc.)."
Abbie, who grew up with guns, says that kids should not have access to guns, even if they're unloaded. "We always had guns in the house, however they were locked away in a gun locker on my parents closet. I had no idea where the keys were."
Both Steve and Lisa recommend teaching kids - either those in a house with guns or those visiting it - to be taught never to touch a gun. As Steve said, "The best defense is to teach kids to never touch any weapons and if they encounter one, to immediately notify an adult."
Ignorance Can Be Bliss
Lisa suggested that it's good news if a parent tells you their children don't even know about the guns in a house. No temptation. Abbie's experience was that, while she knew the guns were there, she didn't know where the ammunition was kept.
Lisa and Steve both emphasized that gun safes are only as secure as the owner's ability to safeguard keys and codes. No gun security system is infallible.
Trust Your Gut
Now that I know more about what some experts say about safe gun storage, I feel better equipped to make choices for my own children. At the end of the day, I have to trust the parents before I let my child go over to their house. If it doesn't feel right to me, I'll invite the other child over to my house instead.
-By Rebekah Kuschmider
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