Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
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.