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Guns in the Home: Playdates and Safety

Vice President Joe Biden addresses Parents readers' questions about keeping guns at home away from children, and how to discuss guns before a child goes on a playdate.

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-From schools, let's turn to the safety of guns that are kept at home. Tessa Gray asks should parents who don't have guns in their homes demand to know which of their children's friends are gun owners. -Well, Tessa that's a judgment for every parent to make. For example, as a parent raising my children, I wanted to know when they're gonna visit when they were younger, when they're gonna do an overnight at someone's home when they're in second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh grade. I wanted to know if they had a swimming pool, whether or not it was locked when there's a gate. That's not an unreasonable thing for me to ask. When my kids were 14, 15, and 16, at that time when kids start experimenting, I like to know if they're having a party and the parents lock the liquor cabinet and that's just me. I don't think it's a rationale for you to ask whether or not there are guns in the home and how they're storage. For example, in my home, I have-- I have 5 grandchildren. They're around all the time. I had 2 shotguns. They're locked in a safe. There's a-- There's a gun case that is metal and there's a combination. I could get to it really quickly if I thought my home was being invaded and to try to protect myself, but I keep the ammunition and the guns in that case. I don't think it's a rationale for you to ask whether or not if there are guns in the home or are they locked-- are they in their lock and key, are there in a place where children don't have access to it. You read everyday about accidental shootings. Kids don't mean to do it. You know, they-- and I think there should be-- Parents who have children at home should also I think they have gun safety classes or education so you know whether it's a chamb-- or whether it's a bullet in a chamber, how to be sure that the gun is not loaded. I remember my dad-- my dad was a hunter. I'm not a hunter. My dad was a hunter and he always had rifles and I remember the first time he took me out in the field and we were gonna go bird hunting. We ended up not for reasons that are too complicated, but he had to go back to work. But I remember him taking a shotgun and we were in a field and there was an old 3 rail fence in this field and he took the shotgun. He said I want you to see some joy and he blew with one shot of the 12-gauge shotgun, blew the rail of the-- that post and rail fence. Actually, it was a boarded fence. He just blew the part because he wanted me to understand the power, the power of what I had in my hand and I think it's says that you teach your kids how to safely operate a car, you teach them how to safely deal with something that could do damage to someone else accidentally or to themselves and so I think it makes sense. I think guns safety is an important element of what we're talking about here and that's-- we're not legislating that. We're not legislating that. But again, I think the more people become aware of the-- of what's going on, the more there's a sort of the imperative to make sure that children who are curious are not-- do not have access to these weapons and/or if they have access and you've trained them, they've been trained so they confidently can handle if they're going out a bird hunting with you or target shoot. They should be trained. I think most star by the way. Look, there is a really healthy gun culture in this country. There's a-- The state I come from. The family I come from. Guns were part of my father's ethic. My father was a responsible man. And so we were taught. We were taught. You don't play with the gun. You don't handle it. You don't pick up a gun even when you now was loaded it. We weren't even allowed in playing cops and robbers to point a, you know, a cowboy, you know, a cop gun at someone. You just don't do that. And so there's certain basic things I think any family that owns a weapon, owns a gun should be training their children about so that they don't accidentally get themselves in trouble. -So, you mentioned that legislating around that. I have a question about that from Missy Carson-Smith. She writes that she is the sister of a boy killed 27 years ago in a school-related shooting. Her own daughter went to her first playdate and weeks later, I found out there was an unlocked gun in the home. She asks, what are legislators willing to do to present the message that all parents should be conversing about the issue of gun accessibility at the household level? -Missy, first of all, you know, sorry for what you went through. Look, it's a complicated decision. Supreme Court decision relating to gun safety, there was a District of Columbia Ordinance that said that you had to keep your firearm. When you're in your home, you had to keep a locked up and unloaded and locked. I'm not sure unloaded, but you had to keep it locked way. And the Supreme Court rule that you cannot require someone to have their weapon in a place where it was not accessible for self-- their self-defense and so they said that you could not in all circumstances where your home tell you, you cannot have a weapon that has loaded in your home. That still doesn't mean you can't be responsible and making sure if it is loaded and it's accessible to only you and not your children, it's still does not say. It's unclear whether or not when you're not in your home should you be required to have it under lock and keys so if you're kids are in and out while you're at work or when you're out of the house. So, it's still a nontested area, but again I think the vast majority American people are serious and responsible and I think the vast overwhelming majority of gun owners are incredibly responsible and, in fact, keeping the weapon, keeping the gun out of the reach of children or strangers see as just common sense and I think you're gonna see some initiatives that are gonna come along that are gonna try to find out the limits of that DC case and I think there is room that people will be able to legislate the District of Columbia and other places to increase the prospects, increase these prospects that a loaded weapon is not within the reach of the stranger or a family member who is not confident to use it.