Thursday, April 7, 2016

Guns and playdates

Would you let your child play at their friend's home if you knew there was a gun in the house?

It's every parent's worst nightmare. At least it's mine. Your child is over at her friend's place. The friend asks an intriguing question, implying the forbidden. "Hey, have you ever seen a real gun? I know where my parents' hide theirs. You wanna see it?" The children find the gun. They touch it. They hold it. And then the unthinkable.

Somehow I never thought to ask other parents if they kept any guns in the house. But after my daughter's recent playdate with a friend from school, I'm thinking I need to be more upfront with fellow parents about the issue.

Consider the conversation I had with my daughter yesterday.

Me: How was your playdate? Did you have a good time?
Izzy: Yeah! We played with our American Girl dolls.
Me: Oh that sounds like fun! Did you play in her room? I remember how fun it was to see another friend's room for the first time.
Izzy: No, we weren't allowed to go upstairs because her dad has private things up there, like a gun.

I was utterly astonished.

But I shouldn't have been so shocked. Experts say that 1 in 3 families with children have at least one gun in the house. In fact, more American homes have guns than dogs. And 8 in 10 first graders know where their parents' guns are hidden. The numbers are startling. But it never occurred to me that these statistics would include the households at my children's progressive elementary school.

"Is there a gun in your house?"

It's perhaps the most awkward and divisive of questions to ask of other parents. I mean, how do you pose the question without fear of offending someone? "Hi, I hear Susie wants to have my daughter over at your house for a play date... By the way, do you keep any firearms in your home?" It's a question that could end potential friendships before they even begin.

But when it comes to my own child, I can't afford to assume anything. I can't and shouldn't leave anything to chance. So I'm gonna ask the question that I hate to ask. 

Do you have a gun in your house?

"It was a horrible, horrible accident." (NYT)