Our recent personal tragedy prompted me to open a discussion with local friends about guns. We have a great playgroup. The kids have been playing together for over three years now. They are always supervised as all the parents attend the group as well. As the children are getting older I am noticing them darting off into rooms out of sight. I have great anxiety about what they might find.
If they did find a gun I have no doubt about what they would do. There is plenty of research about how gun education is virtually useless for keeping kids, especially boys, safe. As the mom of two curious boys I have no doubt that they do NOT have a healthy fear of guns. I am usually all about information. Guns are one of the few topics where we are an “abstinence-only” family.
So the information that I seek isn’t for educating my boys, but more about mapping their environment so we can help them avoid guns altogether. I finally had to ask all of our friends (at least the ones whose homes we visit) if they have guns.
I find that I often just assume that everyone is like me. In fact, I do this to a fault. It is incomprehensible to me how people can have a different point of view. (I end up yelling at the radio a lot because of this). I realized that I was extending my overarching default assumption about gun ownership. It isn’t safe to assume that people just don’t have guns because I don’t or because they have kids. It isn’t even safe to assume that if people have guns that they store them safely (unloaded and locked). It was time to ask. Awkward? Yes. Important? Yes. I imagine this is a conversation we will have to keep having with their friend’s families for the next couple decades.
Here is the email I sent to playgroup. I am posting it in case anyone else wants to start having this conversation in their own community.
Before we start to play in each other’s homes this summer I need to ask a question.
Is there a gun/s in your home?
We are in the process of asking this question to all of the people in our lives (or at least the people we visit in their homes). As our children get older and gain independence they will start to play with less supervision and I need to reach out at this point and get more information about the environments they will be in.
As you all know Adam’s dad and stepmother recently died by a gun, which has heightening my anxiety around my children’s exposure. Although their deaths were not an accident we suspect that if the guns had been stored, unloaded and locked, the outcome might have been different.
Our family simply cannot endure another gun tragedy. So rather than just assume and feel uneasy I need to find out more information.
Although my in-laws death has increased my sensitivity to this issue, it has actually been on my radar for some time. Before my in-laws death we had decided not to let our children ever be unsupervised in their home because we knew there were unsecured guns. We found over a dozen loaded guns throughout the house after their death.
Although it makes me uncomfortable, the presence of a gun isn’t a deal breaker for us. But if there is a gun in your home could you please let us know how you store it (locked and unloaded?)
I hope I have not offended anyone. My intention was not to pry and certainly I do not judge. I understand that there are many reasons people would keep a gun in their home and other cultural values are at play here. I am also not trying to change anyone’s mind about gun rights or ownership. I trust all of you and know that you do your best to keep your kids safe.
I also know my own children and do NOT trust that they would know what to do if they ever encountered a gun. (Especially after reading this article, which haunts me: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2014/02/06/gun-safety-programs-dont-work-for-children).
If you could please reply and let me know if you have a gun and if so how you store it, it would really set my mind at ease. If you don’t feel comfortable replying to the group that is fine by me. I really appreciate you taking the time to consider this request. Thank you for all the support you have given us in the wake of the gun violence in out lives.
Our disclosure, in case this is an issue for anyone else, is that we don’t have any guns.
I would have preferred to have a discussion about this face-to-face but I couldn’t figure out a way to do that without kids around. I am happy to say that so far the response has been prompt and positive, which is always nice when you know you are opening up a sensitive subject.
City Mama, is this on your radar? Is the culture so different on the left coast/city/suburbs that you don’t have to worry about this? I wish we didn’t have to, but I am happy that we are having the hard conversations now so that hopefully we won’t have to experience something even harder later.