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The Most Uncomfortable Conversation: Asking Parents About Their Guns

I’ve written about this before, but the funny thing is, the question about gun ownership and storage hasn’t gotten any easier to ask since I started doing it.  You would think that now that I have had the conversation many times over, I would have found the magic combination of nouns and verbs and adjectives to make the whole thing less awkward.  But I haven’t.  Instead, I have to psyche myself up before the conversation, and then cringe the whole way through it until it’s done.

Cafemom had a great article this week on how to broach the conversation before a playdate, both when to have the conversation (before you get to their front door) and what to say.  As well as an important point:

If you ask the question in a neutral, non-judgmental manner, treating it in the same way you would any other safety issue such as asking whether they have a carseat in their car for a driving situation, and they do become offended, that is your red flag.

I posted that article online, and a friend volunteered their gun status that I hadn’t yet directly asked.  It made it so much easier.  Just a simple exchange on the presence or non-presence of firearms and their whereabouts.  And now we both know.

I wish it wasn’t so awkward.  I wish it was an expected conversation vs one that people feel as if they need to dance around the topic.

Just a reminder… tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday.


1 Karen (River Run Dry) { 01.11.15 at 8:50 am }

Thank you SOOOOOO MUCH for posting this.

I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t asked many parents at all. Easier to either not have playdates at all or bring the kids to our house, where I know there isn’t a gun safety issue. This is really helpful.

2 Belle Schneider { 01.11.15 at 10:35 am }

I am enjoying your blog. You broach so many subjects that I have never considered and ones that I will need to ponder in the future. If you get a chance, please check out a blog my friend and I are putting together: http://lesbianbabyblog.blogspot.com/.

3 Ryanne { 01.11.15 at 11:14 am }

As gun owners, we are careful to take precautions when kids come to our house. So far it has been a non-issue because our circle of friends are all gun owners as well. In fact, in our area it’s rare to not be. It’s really about equal responsibility, just like with my dog who, at the end of the day, is still a dog and has the ability to bite and hurt. I wouldn’t allow him to roam without keeping an eye on him, just in case. I consider it my responsibility to make sure that visitors are protected, and while I would appreciate someone asking if our guns were put up, I wouldn’t be offended because it would already be done.

4 Cristy { 01.11.15 at 12:58 pm }

We recently had to go back on hiring a nanny because we learned her husband is a Level II sec offender with a long criminal history (6 months ago he was arrested for a hit & run). Telling her we were goin with another option after what seemed like such a good fit was very hard. But we needed to do what was best for our kids and the situations wasn’t safe.

Conversations like this are always hard, but the stuff that’s important usually is.

5 earthandink { 01.11.15 at 1:56 pm }

I think it’s because it’s such a divisive topic. Gun control proponents are very vocal. Gun owners are vocal. It’s been made a political hot potato, when it is too important to be simply that.

6 torthuil { 01.11.15 at 2:51 pm }

Wow. I can honestly say this is one parenting matter I had not thought of AT ALL. I suppose being Canadian I assume that people probably don’t have guns. But really, how would I know for sure without asking?

7 Northern Star { 01.11.15 at 3:30 pm }

Same with torthuil… As a Canadian, the general assumption is that people don’t have guns… Not a part of our culture (with the exception of hunting, which I guess I just assume a) our friends don’t do or b) if they do, guns are securely locked away). But assuming isn’t the most practical approach is it? Time to open that conversation I guess!

8 Geochick { 01.11.15 at 3:43 pm }

X has a friend in daycare who was telling kids his dad has guns. It was (for me) the perfect way to bring up the topic when I went out with his mom one night, because we might exchange play dates in the near future. What was so funny about it was that she told me that it’s a hunting rifle stored in the rafters of the garage! I’m not worried, but it is something we need to ask from here on out. I’m also not afraid to ask it as awkward as the conversation gets. If someone is offended by my asking, there will be no playdates. Period.

9 Turia { 01.11.15 at 5:08 pm }

Oh wow. Again, as a Canadian, it really did not occur to me that people have to have these kinds of conversations. I would be absolutely gobsmacked if someone asked me whether there were guns in the house. Wow. Food for thought for sure.

10 Heather { 01.11.15 at 8:30 pm }

I’ve given this some thought, even though my kids are too young for play dates without me or my husband also there. It’s awkward. And I worry that even asking might get someone on the defensive or make them feel like I’m judging them–and the reality is, I am…if their guns aren’t properly LOCKED and unloaded. Sigh.

I saw a 20/20 type of show recently where they went door to door asking parents about their guns and then having a one-on-one chat with the kids in the house. Some parents did get defensive, etc. But the ones that were the scariest were the ones that swore up and down their kids a) had no idea there was a gun in the house or b) that their kids would NEVER touch it, etc. The one-on-one interviews proved that a) the kids did indeed know there was a gun in the house, b) they knew exactly where the gun was kept and c) several of them admitted to having HANDLED the gun without their parents’ knowledge. Scary as hell! I sorta just want to have all the play dates at my own house. :-/

11 Justine { 01.11.15 at 10:07 pm }

I learned not long ago that over half the homes in my county contain guns. It was an uncomfortable statistic. We don’t generally have playdates out where I’m not present, but if we do, I hope that I can overcome the awkwardness fast enough to ask the important questions.

12 No Baby Ruth { 01.12.15 at 5:14 am }

Gun ownership, or rather the lack of it, is one of the biggest advantages I see to us living here in Spain. Yes, hunting weapons are legal and a danger, but that doesn’t even come close to the level of danger in the States. Although, I definitely do need to have a convo even about those when my oldest is old enough to have unchaperoned playdates…

13 Lindsay | Solo Mama { 01.12.15 at 10:42 am }

This is something I’ve never thought about. But I live in Toronto and I think I can safely say most people don’t have guns in their home here. It’s just not that kind of place. I think guns are a far bigger issue in the USA.

14 Lisa { 01.12.15 at 6:18 pm }

Thank you so much for posting this. At 13, one of my best friends was shot in the back of the neck at a friend’s house. He’d only stopped by to pick up his walkman (yes – a walkman) and the friend was playing with his dad’s gun, which “wasn’t loaded.” My friend knew not to mess with such things and turned to leave. That was when he was shot by his “playful” friend. He only has function in one limb now. I’ve fretted over how to address the guns in the home issue in the future. Particularly since I live in the gun toting south! This is really helpful info.

15 Kasey { 01.13.15 at 12:50 pm }

I wish the topic wasn’t so divisive. I grew up around guns. I’ve been hunting and was taught gun safety. My kids are growing up in a different environment. I’m not looking forward to the day I have to ask this question at all. But I feel like any gun owner who is properly locking it up shouldn’t be offended. Unfortunately worst conversation so far has been with my Dad who doesn’t understand our HUGE concern that he travels with a gun to our home, where we do NOT have a proper safe to lock it away. Ugh!

16 JustHeather { 01.21.15 at 3:47 am }

This is why I and most Finns have not had a gun conversation before playdates: http://yle.fi/uutiset/finnish_police_fired_guns_only_six_times_in_2013/7701005
Yes, guns do exist here, but they are not carried concealed, they are kept locked up and are mostly only for hunting or recreational shooting (at a range, I assume). My FIL has guns, quite a few I believe, but I have never seen a single one of them…and I keep forgetting to ask him to show them to me down in his locked and alarmed room in the basement. I have heard that he has some collectors pieces.

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