The Question that Should be Asked Before any Play Date

I was originally going to write an article about how Unitarian Universalists have impacted our Christmas celebrations, but the past month’s gun related deaths have affected me greatly. I have had enough. So, I am taking this opportunity to mention the concept of “Asking Saves Kids.” In the USA, one out of three homes with children has a gun, and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun. Every year thousands of kids are killed and injured as a result.

Parents ask all sorts of questions before their children visit other homes. We ask about pets in the house, discuss allergies and Internet access, and ask questions about supervision. I am encouraging you to add one more question to this conversation: “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” It’s a simple question, but it has the power to save a child’s life.

My children are eleven years old, and I have to admit, I’ve never asked my children’s friend’s parents about guns in their homes. I assumed my children would know better, would be safe. But you’ve read the stories – a 6-year-old boy picks up a gun and shoots his 4-year-old sister, two kids are playing in a bedroom and one accidentally kills the other, the toddler who finds the hidden holster in his mother’s purse and shoots her in the head. Authorities say that parents don’t believe that their children know where their guns are hidden, but a recent study* says that eight in ten first graders know where their parents hide their guns. Parents believe that because they have told their child not to touch a gun, that they won’t. But studies say that simply isn’t true.

It may be the most awkward and divisive of questions that I will now ask of other parents, usually new acquaintances, but also of old friends. When on the phone, discussing our children, laughing, and the subject of play dates comes up. I will ask, “Do you keep guns in your house?” If the answer is “Yes.” I will follow up with, “Do you have a gun safe?” And if the answer is no, my children will not visit their home.

I was raised among gun people, my father hunted, my brother and nephew hunt, the family on my children’s father’s side hunt, and yes, my children own toy guns and play first person shooter video games. I am fine with people legally owning guns, I just want my children to be safe. In Scotland, where my children’s father’s family lives, guns within homes must be in locked gun safes when not in use. Homes are visited, each year, without prior notice, and certified. If you buy a gun, you are entered on the list for a visit. If your gun safe is unlocked, or a gun is missing, you lose your privilege of gun ownership. My children are safer in Scotland than they are in the USA.

Yes, this is just one aspect of gun control, and there is much more to do, but we have to start somewhere. Please, the next time your child visits a friend’s house, ask if there is an unlocked gun in the house.



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