I remember the first time I asked a parent I hardly knew, “Do you have any guns in your house?” it felt super awkward. I was convinced that she would think I was a lunatic, or a totally uptight parent, and that she was making mental notes to never let her child play with mine again.
But I was surprised by her answer: “No. And I’m so glad you asked! I really respect that. Do you guys?”
It started a conversation that was uncomfortable at first, but gave me peace of mind instantly.
I’m surprised by the number of parents who don’t ask this question before a playdate. I’ve never had a parent ask me — not even once. But I’ve reached out and asked many of my kids’ friends’ parents, relatives, and neighbors if my kids were going to be in their house.
We don’t have guns in our house, and we have no plans to change that. I grew up in Texas, and my father was a hunter, so I have been around guns my entire life. But once I became a mother, I just decided that for me and my family the risk was too great. I didn’t want them in my house while my kids were young.
I’m not anti-guns. It’s a personal choice.
But, frankly, the statistics scare me, and I don’t want to become a statistic. And I certainly don’t want to risk my kids becoming a statistic at someone else’s house just because I was afraid to ask a simple question: “Do you own any guns?”
According to USA Today, a report by the CDC in December of 2016, 77 children were killed by accidental shootings in 2016. However, the article also states:
“CDC officials have acknowledged that their statistics are low because they rely on how coroners classify the fatalities on death certificates. Some coroners rule deaths in which one child unintentionally shoots another as a homicide — rather than an accidental discharge — because they fit the definition of being killed by another. They also can classify them as undetermined if the intent is unclear — for example, if it’s not certain whether a minor committed suicide or accidentally shot himself. In other words, there is actually an under reporting of accidental gun deaths in children because of how the coroners sometimes classify them.”
Gun control advocates claim that 7 children die per day from gun violence. That statistic can be considered misleading, and this is often pointed out during gun control debates. This is taking into account an average of any violent gun death of “children” ages 0 to 19, including homicides and suicides from the past three years. In my opinion, one child dying from an accidental gunshot is too many. And 77 accidents in 2016 is way too many.
I, for one, don’t want my child to become a statistic. I know I’m not alone here.
A couple of years ago, I watched a 20/20 episode titled, “Young Guns” that cemented my decision to never own a gun, and never be afraid to ask another parent if they have guns in their home. Children are drawn to them, and kids are naturally curious. I found my own kids rifling in their grandpa’s closet when they were playing hide-and-seek while the adults were downstairs talking. As soon as I found them, I first scolded them for not respecting their grandpa’s privacy, and then followed up with a conversation with my father-in-law about where he keeps his guns.
In the 20/20 episode, it was startling to see that, even when parents thought their children didn’t know where the guns were hidden in the home, the children always knew their location when asked by the reporters. Just like they know if you are eating a snack three rooms away, they know where mom and dad keep the gun. Even children who are educated about gun safety sometimes forget the rules when they unintentionally find a firearm and pick it up, oftentimes looking straight down the barrel.
Yes, it’s okay to be that mom. In fact, you definitely should be that mom.
You should never be afraid to ask about guns in the home of anyone your child visits. Family members, neighbors, and new friends are always at the top of my list of people to ask. But how do you start the conversation?
Just ask. Most parents won’t think you’re ridiculous. And if they do, then maybe they aren’t the type of home you want your child playing in. I find that most parents want to keep their kids safe, and they want to keep your kid safe too.
If the answer is yes, then follow up with more questions: Where do you keep your guns? Are they locked up? Do your kids know you have a gun? I would follow up by simply asking if they would consider locking them up while your child is playing at their house. If they act casual about it, then you might want to consider inviting the friend to your house instead and explaining that it’s just a rule you have for everyone. Guns should never be discussed casually, and no parent should put off by you asking if deadly weapons are out of a child’s reach and properly stored.
If the answer is, “Yes, we have guns. Yes, they are unloaded and locked in a safe,” you should still ask the question every time to ensure that the response remains satisfactory. If your kids play together regularly, the parent(s) will likely start reassuring you before you have to ask.
Not too long ago, a kid in our neighborhood left a note on our door inviting my kids to a gun show. It was a handwritten note, with a hand-drawn picture of a gun. I was alarmed to say the least. We had never spoken to these parents before. My husband took the note with him and headed over to find out more details.
My kids were in bed, so they didn’t know about the gun show invitation. Luckily, it turned out that it was a nerf gun show (thank goodness!). The parents thanked us for letting them know, and it was the perfect opportunity to talk to our own kids about gun safety.
It can be awkward to ask the question: “Do you have a gun?” But it can save a life, your child’s. It can also prompt adults to be more cautious in storing their firearms. So, I say, let’s open the conversation up, get over our own insecurities, and start a dialogue that will keep our kids safe. If you ask me if we own any guns, I’ll be glad you did.
For more information on responsible gun storage and starting these conversations, visit: http://besmartforkids.org/resources/
Mary Elizabeth Ellis
Director: Lara Everly
Producer: Jessica Stamen
Executive Producer: Asher Brown
Writers: Lara Everly & Jessica Stamen
Director of Photography: Senda Bonnet
Co-Producer: Melissa Pressman
Production Designer: Astrid Anderson
Editor: Shoshanah Tanzer
Composer: Chad Fischer
Assistant Director: Corinne Rapone
Assistant Camera: Emma Furilli
Gaffer: Zac Lachenbruch
Grip: Carina Marquez
Sound: Kile Stimbo
Hair & Make Up: Kristina Frisch
Wardrobe: Tiffany Barry
Additional Editing: Stephanie Kaznocha
Color Correction: Flash Cuts
Sound Mix: Ronny Mikkelsen
Studio Teacher: Guy Flint
Production Assistant: Justin David Mora
Special Thanks: SAG AFTRA, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Sigma Lenses, Tasia Judd, Amy Slomovits, and The Pile