How A Conversation About Gun Safety Ended A Friendship

by Kristen Downs
Originally Published: 
A boy who is looking down, representing how a conversation about gun safety ended a friendship

I do not regret our conversation about gun safety. Saying nothing, hardly an option with our children’s lives at stake. I somehow knew my decision to question the unlocked weapons in your home would be the turning point in our relationship.

Another tragic shooting became headline news and the lockdown at my daughter’s high school that week became the impetus for conversation on our brisk morning run. I recall emotions of anger, fear and frustration as our feet pounded the trail that sunny morning in mutual commiseration for our children’s safety. When did the killing of human beings with weapons of mass destruction become everyday conversation?

My racing heart skipped a beat when you divulged your husband’s weapons hidden in your bedroom that children didn’t enter.

“Your guns are not locked in a safe separate from the ammunition?” I carefully inquired, fully aware of the topic’s sensitivity, and confused by the inaccessibility of a parent’s bedroom. Confirming that fact, you assured me you would address gun security, though you seemed apprehensive broaching the conversation with your husband.

The pistol your son chose for an iPhone screen saver stunned me like a deer in the headlights. The harsh metal image illuminated on my kitchen counter by your text, I cannot erase the image from my mind. The apparent idolatry of this weapon by an 11-year-old boy intensified my desire to act.

Shaking in fear, my temperature rising, I dialed your number. Our friendship was that of mutual respect and I believed you’d hear me out, though I never imagined need for further discussion.

“We respect you and your right to own firearms,” I began cautiously. “The safe storage of guns is the minimum level of safety required for our children to play in another home but your son is always welcome at ours.” Repeating my words back to me, it seemed you, my friend, understood.

Weeks later, the tenor of your husband’s phone call was alarming. He felt judged, angry and accused. My husband spoke calmly in a manner of which I was incapable, describing the safe storage of guns, yet shaking his head afterwards in disbelief. It was never about you.

With thoughtful consideration, we crafted an email to eliminate further confusion. Our heartfelt sincerity was met by your husband’s glib, offensive retort reverberating my entire being, like the discharge of a loaded weapon. His response hardly a joke as he claimed, after all this was not a laughing matter. Your complicity was equally hurtful. You de-friended me on Facebook. Our friendship disintegrated.

Future play dates at our house became awkward, our boys insisting your son would never show anyone the guns in your bedroom. Forced to explain the safety and security of unlocked weapons had nothing to do with the boys’ level of responsibility, I became aware my adult conversations were a one-way street. Parenting is hard without support in your village.

After school last week, my 11-year-old son burst through the front door furiously crying, knowing he’d be forced to decline your son’s sleepover birthday party invitation, nothing changed. My heart ached for both boys. My son previously admitting they’d entered your bedroom last year.

Eight Children Are Accidentally Shot Every Day With Unsecured Weapons In The Home, the headline read, though statistics won’t convince my son his parents made the right decision.

Yesterday your son announced on the playground he could no longer come to our house, his father angry I told another mother about your unlocked weapons. Evidently a safety concern for her son as well. Real mature, I thought as my anger swelled within. I felt sorry for my son’s experience.

Hell yes, I’d admit the truth to anyone who asked why my son was not allowed in your home. Parenting gun safety was never about us versus you. Silence would be regrettable.

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