We don’t own guns. Neither my husband or I grew up around them, and to be honest, I can’t recall ever seeing a handgun that wasn’t strapped to a police officer. We aren’t anti-toy guns (as evidenced by the stray Nerf gun foam bullets scattered over our yard), but my kids’ relationship with them ends there.
I’ve reiterated the rules to both of my kids if they ever find themselves in the same room as a gun at least three dozen times:
- Do not touch it.
- Move as far away as possible. Preferably, out of the house.
- Tell an adult.
But the truth is, that’s not enough. For one thing, my 10-year-old has to accumulate 40 consecutive hours of me telling him ANYTHING before he commits it to memory. (Including but not limited to “put your dishes in the dishwasher ,” “stop making your sister scream,” and “if you can smell your feet, I shouldn’t have to tell you to wash them.”)
Despite the serious nature of the rules around guns, his (totally age appropriate) track record suggests I’d be foolish to assume he’s fully grasped this one just because his life depends on it.
Moreover, kids do incredibly dumb things when they’re with their friends, or get caught in the fallout. Once, at a friend’s potluck family dinner party, several boys were implicated in what has become known as “The Onion Fight Incident.” I’m 98% certain mine had nothing to do with it, but he certainly didn’t call a ceasefire.
The fact is, kids are curious. And expecting them to resist the urge to touch something that’s off limits is fine if it’s a birthday cake or an expensive bottle of perfume. (Spoiler alert- they probably won’t.)
Keeping guns out of the hands of our children is on us.
Three thousand kids die from gunshot wounds every year in the United States. Kids whose parents had explicitly told them never to touch a gun. Kids whose parents accidentally left a weapon unlocked and accessible ONE TIME.
The most foolproof way to make sure kids never touch a gun is to prevent them from ever finding one. Many parents think their kids don’t know where their guns are kept. Surprise! Three-quarters of them do.
(Are you convinced your kid would know better? Stop right here. Watch this shocking clip from the ABC special “Young Guns” What young kids do with guns when parents aren’t around.)
It’s time to normalize the conversation about gun safety.
Ill-fitting underwear is uncomfortable. Airplane seats are uncomfortable. Know what shouldn’t be uncomfortable? Asking other parents if they have guns in their home before sending your kids over to play, and asking if they’re stored securely.
Play dates often come with a list of dietary restrictions or the occasional screentime policy review. And we’ve become accustomed to asking other parents if their child has allergies or other needs.
Asking about guns in the home should be that normal. Just an everyday question asked between parents. “Do you have guns in the house?”
- Are you a gun owner? Project Child Safe is a non-profit that provides free firearm safety kits, including a locking device.
- Find out if your state has child access laws and locate resources to learn what you can do to make your community safer.
- The Most Important Question Parents Should Be Asking
- The Question I Ask Before Any Play Date