Are There Guns Where Your Children Play?

21Ogx-QOIzL._SL500_AA300_I have to be honest: I don’t know the answer to this when it comes to my own children.

More than 40 percent of homes with children have a gun–and it’s often kept unlocked or loaded or both–so it chills me to realize that it’s quite possible my daughter, who’s 5, has had a playdate in a home where there’s a gun. I’ve never asked any parent about this.

Today is ASK Day, part of the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) campaign created by The Center to Prevent Youth Violence with the American Academy of Pediatrics. The mission is to encourage parents to ask other moms and dads whether there are guns in their home before allowing them to go over.

It’s a simple concept but feels intimidating, doesn’t it? It could be awkward to ask parents this question, especially if we don’t know them well, right? Maybe… but we need to get over it. Try these tactics to make the conversation go smoothly:

Ask about guns as part of a larger conversation about the playdate. Bring it up along with other things you’d normally discuss–like whether there are pets in the home, any allergies your child might have, whether you need to drop off a booster seat just in case, etc.

Let the facts do the talking. Tell the parent about the 40 percent stat, and mention that many of those guns are unlocked or loaded. Explain that you were so surprised to hear this, you realized that you need to start asking.

Try this script. It comes from our advisor Gary A. Smith, M.D., Dr. Ph.H., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who offered it when we covered this topic in our July issue’s “Judy on Duty” column: “I have a question that I ask all parents when Kyle goes to a new family’s house. Do you have any guns in your home, and if you do, are they stored unloaded and locked with the ammunition locked in a separate location? Kyle is so curious and I worry that he wouldn’t recognize the potential danger if he came across a weapon.”

If you’ve already had this conversation with a parent, I’d really like to hear how it went. And if you have a gun in your home, tell us how you’d want another parent to broach the subject with you.

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  1. by Alicia

    On June 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    When my son went on his first “solo” playdate, I asked the mom if they had dogs because my son was afraid of them at the time. Never in a million years did I think to ask about guns. It was the other mom who brought it up because they did have guns in the house (her husband was a hunter). She assured me that they were in a locked cabinet and the ammunition was stored in a separate place. It opened my eyes that this was something I should be asking another parent when my child would be playing at their house. Thanks for bringing this to more parents’ attention!

  2. by Sam

    On June 22, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I have never thought to ask this because most people I know own guns, and they have them locked up. I guess I should make sure the guns are locked up. I don’t see the need or practicality of them not being loaded. An unloaded gun is just a piece of metal. As long as it is up out of children’s reach or in a locked container there are no worries. Also, all parents should talk to thier kids about guns; about how they are good in the hands of someone who knows how to use them, like a police officer, but a child should never touch one.

  3. by Cat lewis

    On June 22, 2011 at 9:04 am

    As a gun owner and sport shooter, I welcome parents queries! Please ask! Responsible gun owners will happily show you their safety methods. Let’s keep guns safely out of reach yet in sport shooters hands! Learn about the sport, don’t fear the unknown. Educate don’t eradicate.

  4. by Cheryl

    On June 22, 2011 at 9:24 am

    My son has not had any playdates with kids that we don’t already know the parents well.

    But, I am parent who has guns in her home (hubby is a hunter) and for me I appreciate the direct approach when asking questions. I am more than happy to answer all questions about how we keep our guns and kids safe.

  5. by heather

    On June 22, 2011 at 9:45 am

    My husband is a hunter, he has a hunting room where all of his guns, ammunition, etc. are kept and our daughter is not allowed in the room (even though the guns are always unloaded). That said i would encourage any parent to ask about guns. You can never be too safe. I would not be offended if a parent just flat out asked me, because i will do the same. If they are offended then your child should not be there.

  6. by Julie

    On June 22, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Everyone knows my husband is a hunter, but sadly have only had one parent ask. We were not offended at all. It actually made my husband double check to make sure everything WAS put away safely.

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