Thursday, April 25, 2013

Asking the difficult question

With an estimated 270 million civilian-owned firearms in the US - nearly one for every man, woman, and child - the odds are good that there's a gun (if not several) located someplace where your child spends time.  In fact, more than 1.5 million children live in households where firearms are kept unlocked and loaded, and sadly over 100 innocent kids are killed every year
(The American Academy of Pediatrics)
For the record, we own guns.  But we take the right steps to keep guns away from our kids and their friends.  We store the guns unloaded upstairs behind closed doors.  We keep the ammunition in a locked case downstairs. Additionally, we have already started teaching gun safety to the kids - whether its about a real gun or a Nerf gun, we (but Brian especially) have taught the dos and the don'ts. But to some parents, it has never occurred to them to ask others whether they do the same.  Unfortunately, very few parents raise the issue of firearms before letting their kid play at someone else's home.
Before allowing a playdate at someone else's house for the first time, it's essential to ask the parents about guns.  For many people, they just don't think to ask that question or assume that all parents who own guns take the necessary safety precautions.  You just can't be sure.  Like many families up here in Alaska (or anywhere for that fact), we like to hunt or even target shoot.  Guns are sold everywhere and the safe assumption is that most every household has one.  You can bet your bottom dollar that we will ask the question when the time comes for our kids to attend birthday parties or sleepovers.  For some parents though, that seems too forward or not appropriate or just too sensitive of a subject.  But I assure you that your child(ren)'s life is worth that question - it's as simple as, "For peace of mind, do you have guns in your home, and if so, can you tell me how you keep your guns secured?"  As one of my dear friends put it - if another child had allergies, the parent wouldn't feel weird about asking if we had dogs, or cats, or peanuts, would they?  I'm certain they wouldn't.  Remember, if an adult is offended by your questions about your child's safety, you might want to reconsider your child spending time in their home.
Teaching gun safety and also trying to explain to our young children about the tragic school violence that has happened in our country in recent years is no easy task.  But it's far better to have these types of conversations with your child(ren) than to ignore the issue of firearms entirely, as too many of us have done in the past or might still be doing.

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