I have this worry that I then worry will place me in the category of Frantic Mommy -- will there be guns at the houses where my son has play dates?
We've read the warnings in every single parenting book and site we've visited about keeping fire arms locked up and discussing the issue with moms and dads who host parties and play time. But when it comes down to it, it feels like an awkward subject to bring up. This, in itself, is ridiculous, I know. As my colleague Charlene Prince Birkeland pointed out, we have easy, fluid conversations about other things that could pose a risk to our kids -- like whether there are cats or dogs in the house. So why is the subject of guns so scary and still so hard to tackle?
Perhaps it is easier if you know someone in the household is a hunter, where guns are presumably stored, or if a parent has been vocal about having being a gun owner for any other reason. So what if you live in a city where people are less likely to hunt or what if your circle of friends seem to be anti-handgun? How do you cross the divide to ask anyway?
The conflict about how to handle the gun question doesn't seem to just rest with parents in this country.
The "Don't Ask" bill, already passed by legislature in Florida, awaits the governor's signature. If it becomes law, it would prohibit doctors and healthcare professionals from asking parents if they own a firearm or have one in their home. Similar laws have been proposed in four other states. On the other hand, the Children's Trust Fund spent last month urging parents to ask tough questions to protect their kids against accidentally being shot. The Children's Trust Fund noted in their "ASK Day" (Asking Saves Kids) campaign, which kicked off in Florida, that 75 children a day are shot in this country, and 65% of those kids find the gun used at their own home or in the home of a relative or friend. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that a gun kept in a home is 43 times more likely to kill a relative or someone known to the family than to be used in protection against an intruder.
Parenting Magascene offered this advice to bring gun safety home -- either your own or another family's. They cite Gary Smith, M.D., Dr.PH., and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who provides a script for parents to use before play dates are secured. Smith recommends saying, "I have a question I ask all parents when Kyle goes to a new person's house. Do you have any guns in your house, and if you do, are they stored unloaded and locked with the ammunition locked in a separate location? Kyle is so curious, and I worry that he wouldn't recognize the potential danger if he came across a weapon."
The Children's Trust Fund recommends opening the talk by asking which adult will be in charge of ensuring the kids' safety during the play date.
Despite the awkwardness, I'd much rather be known as Frantic Mommy than open the possibilities of unimaginable, accidental tragedy.
As the police chief reminds in this awful story about a toddler who was killed when children in the family found an unlocked handgun in their home, charges against the parents may not be filed but the parents now have a life sentence of heartbreak and guilt.
No one wants that. No parent wants to wonder whether they really did enough or why they didn't just ask.
I'm having a tough time getting the words out even though I wholeheartedly believe in bringing it up.
Please share: Have you asked parents if they store guns at home and if they are locked up? How did you handle it? What words did you use?
More on Shine:
- Guns and toddlers: Can they coexist?
- Does technology make you a better parent?
- Home safety tips for new parents
- "My house is too messy for play dates"