Would You Ask if There's a Gun in the House Before A Playdate?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I read a lot of magazines, some of them the parenting kind. Years ago one had a poll about guns in the home and if you would ask the parents of your child's friends if they have one before you'd let your child go over to play. Stories like this one from Tuesday's USA Today make me think abso-frikin-lutely.

From the article:
"An 11-year-old boy in Mississippi accidentally killed his 9-year-old brother with a shotgun blast Tuesday as the two struggled over the gun after arguing about a video game, authorities said."

My brother, Phil and I had a heated argument about this topic one night when were at a bar (my bother's girlfriend wisely chose to stay out of it). We started out talking about Tyler playing with toy guns and turning his other toys into guns, and the conversation turned to guns in the home, nature versus nurture, men versus women, the role of a parent etc. etc. I believe my brother even said, "men are genetically designed to spread their seed as much as possible." Oh yes he did! But I digress.

I grew up around guns. My father is and has been in law enforcement since I was little. If someone were to ask me if we had a gun in the house, I would have said, "sure" in the same way as if they'd asked if we had a TV. It was no big deal. My dad's gun was just another thing on the table next to his wallet and keys. I could touch or hold it anytime I wanted to, all I had to do was ask (that's what she said. sorry, I couldn't leave that one just lying there). It held no mystique for me and I'd get tired of friends (mostly boys) asking me about it because it was no big deal. My dad and my uncle (former LAPD) used to take me to the shooting range. For awhile I kept all my targets so I could track my progress.

When kids would ask about my dad's gun, I'd tell them the story about my dad cleaning his gun in bed one night after I'd gone to bed (I think I was 6 or so). My dad was in the bedroom and my mom was in the bathroom. The bed faced my parent's closet and the bathroom was on the other side of the closet. When the gun went off, my mom said it was so loud she thought she'd been shot. She was frozen in the bathroom. then she thought my dad had shot himself and she called out to him. He ran into the bathroom to make sure she was OK.

The bullet took a chunk out of the closet door knob. It looked like a small animal bit a piece off. The bullets my dad was using at the time weren't the typical kind. Most bullets are capable of leaving an entry and exit wound, but these were designed to penetrate then explode. So after it went through the closet door it exploded and tore up several of my dad's suits. But I digress again.

Not once did I feel the need to sneak around and look for the gun so I could hold it. For one, Dad didn't hide it, it was usually on his dresser. He also told me he'd break all my fingers if he ever caught me, but mostly it was because I didn't care. Having a gun in the house hardly ever crossed my mind unless someone else brought it up. And I never, ever thought about getting his gun when I was angry or sad let alone think to threaten someone with it.

My brother and I knew that guns aren't toys because it was drilled into us over and over. And my brother's argument was the popular, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." To some extent, I agree. But in this instance, and in so many other instances, the "people" involved are children. Fighting over a video game. For some reason, one of them thought going to get a gun was an appropriate way to deal with the situation. That 11-year-old boy is going to have the specter of having
shot and killed his brother hanging over him for the rest of his life.

My main point to my brother was that not everyone was raised the way we were. It seems to me that there's still an aura about guns that's attractive to kids. It seems that the stories we read about involving tragic deaths like this one it's usually about one kid telling another, "hey, look what my parents have," and then one of them ends up dead.

I'm not saying people shouldn't have guns in their homes so all the card carrying NRA can simmer down. I don't know what the solution is either, I just feel that if families who keep guns would do more to take the mystery and curiosity about them away, and teach proper handling and basic safety, maybe children won't end up accidentally killing one another.

What do you think? Would you, or have you asked another parent if they have a gun in the house? Will you let you child play there if they do?

(photo from Google Images)


  1. I never think to ask anyone if there is a gun in their house. I think people that we have guns in our house because I work in law enforcement. I'm civilian and do not carry a gun.

    This question is frequently asked on my internetz parenting forums. People are very vocal about it on the forums, blogs, etc. But in real life, I've never heard it discussed.

    Although maybe it's because a lot of the kids that my son plays with are cops kids. It's a no-brainer to us.

    Unfortunately, because of my job, my son is OBSESSED with guns and tasers. We always have to have discussions with him about them, safety, etc...

  2. I have asked people if they had a gun in their house. I have also told people we would not be able to visit their house until they got a gun safe and stored their guns. I'm sure they returned it to Wal-Mart after our visit and talked about me behind my back, but oh well.

    I grew up around guns too and so did my cousin who ended up being killed by his best friend with his grandmother's gun.

    Girls and boys are so very different when it comes to judgement and guns--I would never in a million years trust a boy around a gun unless under direct supervision. The odds are just too bad.

  3. I would not want my girls playing in a house where a gun is in plain sight. Absolutely not.

    I believe it's OK to have guns in the house, but only if they are properly stored and locked away if there are children around.

    The gun owner may be trusted, but you can't account for kids' judgment and lack of context.

    I wouldn't want to take the chance and I just would not allow Toots or Booger in a house with a gun.

  4. My son's best friends dad is former military so he has guns in the house. My BIL has one to. When I become aware that a friend of my son's has a gun in their house, I do ask some questions regarding how it it stored. Mostly I educate my son about the fact that he should never ever go near or touch a gun if he comes upon one. We also discuss what could happen if he violates this rule. When I read about situations such as the one Mel describes I share that information with my son as well.

    These are conversations that I need to start having with my younger ones soon and often.

  5. My sister in law told me a story about a break in at her nerighbor's. The husband could see the people downstairs as they walked through the house. They called 911 and the ploice asked if he owned a gun. He said yes and the police wouldn't come. They asked him to secure his weapon first. To do so he would have had to risk crossing the stairway again and letting the burglars know he was awake. That story made me think twice about getting one for our house.


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