Is there a gun your house? Is it locked up?
For some reason, parents I have talked to say they find these to be hard questions to ask their peers.
You wouldn’t have a problem asking other parents about what the kids will be doing while at their house. Or what they will be eating — especially if your child had a food allergy. But asking the gun question should be at the top of the list when dropping your child at a play date and even at a relative’s house.
You didn’t mind asking people to wash their hands before holding your newborn, did you? This should be no different.
In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics reminded parents that asking saves lives. I was shocked to see some of the statistics they gathered. In this day and age, I guess it shouldn’t be shocking. The AAP says nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun. And every day in the U.S., 78 children are injured or killed by guns.
The AAP says if the answer to the question is yes, then ask how the gun is stored. The association’s member physicians, who sometimes have to treat children with gun injuries, say it should be stored in a locked location and unloaded. The ammunition should be locked up separately. And they recommend that if you are not comfortable with how a gun is stored in a house, ask if the child can come to your house.
Why is it so hard to ask this? Some say it does not seem polite. But will it be polite to sue the other parents when something happens to your child? You won’t feel like being polite then.
And while you’re at it, ask exactly what they will be doing. Who will be there? Will the parent be there, and not a babysitter or nanny? Who else lives in the house? Where will they be playing?
I know it seems like a lot, but these are your children. I have had parents drop off their kids at my house and leave without speaking to me. Leave without seeing the situation. They don’t know if I’m smoking crack in the backyard or what. For the record, I never have done that, there or any place else. But they don’t know that.
I just found it astounding that the other parents didn’t want to check in with me. Don’t you want to go in and check on the scene and get a sense for it? Still, I must confess I never asked about a gun in the house.
My kids are young adults, but if they were younger I certainly would ask. Even if it embarrassed them, I would do it. I would explain to my children that it was for their own safety. And like we say about all things, I would tell them that if they see something, say something.
Don’t be afraid of the question. Be afraid of what not knowing could mean.