Wednesday, October 7, 2015

But What If There Are Guns?

As I sit here writing this, my 5 year old son is having a play date at a friend's house, a new friend that I've only just gotten to know. With kindergarten well under way, Lukas is making more new friends from class that he wants to play with outside of school. While I'm all for this surge of social interaction and maturity from my sometimes lonely, dare I say, boring boy, having to open myself up to making new mommy friends, setting up after school playdates and sending my son off on his own to play at other people's homes without me, can be a bit overwhelming. No, I'm not some anti-social mom, I just have trust issues. And when it comes to these other parents having guns in their home, I get even more nervous.

I'm not passing judgement or even expressing what my beliefs on gun control is. I will simply say that I'm terrified of children around guns. And it doesn't matter if you are completely one way or the other when it comes to American's rights to bear arms, my issue all the way is the safety of my children. Everyday, when I kiss my children and send them out the door, I worry. I think, have I taught them enough to keep them safe? When they enter someone else's home, someone new that I'm not 100% familiar with, and play with a child I've yet to get to know, I risk accidents happening. How do I know if there are guns in the home and how do I ask in a way that is not offensive? How do I know that, even if the parents did a stellar job teaching their child about gun safety, their child isn't going to show my child their gun anyway?

I didn't worry too much about this with my daughter because I knew she would run if she saw a gun, that's just her. But boys will be boys... they like guns. Even if you tell your boy that guns are not toys, they turn other toys into guns and play. Imagine if they got their hands on a real gun and there was no fear? I have taught Lukas what to do if he ever was put in a situation like that but he's five years old... and a boy. You can only expect so much maturity from a small child when left on their own. I can only hope that I have said what I needed to say to him and he heard me.

Now, I have no idea if the family home where my son is playing has a gun in it, and that scares me. The only thing I know is that when I got back in my car to drive away from dropping my son off, I heard his sweet friend say he'd just got a new toy army gun and he couldn't wait to show my son. I trust that regardless of if there are guns in his home, my son's friend and his parents have also had talks about gun safety.

This is me trying to put my trust in someone I barely know.

I hate that we live in a world where, as parents. we have to have these sort of discussions with our young children. It's how we keep them safe. And with 24 hour news feeds about all the horrible things going on in our world {some gun related, some not}, it only instills more fear and worry in me.

I'm always looking for how to deal with this issue/ topic with other parents when sending our child to play at others' homes. How do we ask (almost) strangers if they have guns in their home? After all, we are trusting them to watch our children while they play. And if they do have guns, are we allowed to ask where they keep them and if they are locked up? I know if another parent asked me I would gladly share that information and not be offended. But with such a sensitive topic, it's easy to offend. And on the flip side, do I just not let my son play at friend's houses until I've established a strong relationship with the parents, which could take some time?


  1. It terrifies me! As an Australian we never had to think about this growing up and now moving to the US I can't believe I have to think about it. It's hard for me to give advice as I'm anti-gun but I hope you find a way to ask the question because it's an important one. Or you might have to consider having playdates at your house instead. Good luck with it. I'm posting about guns on my blog this week too, I'll share my post on your FB page.

    1. Yes, please do share your post!!! I live in CA so the laws here are a bit tougher than say, Texas. But none the less, it is much scarier then other counties. Thank you for sharing your opinion and advice!

  2. Aren't there just a thousand little fears that go on? Play dates make me nervous too. Partially because I'm awkward around people I don't really know and partially because of things like this. My daughter is so trusting, and might make a poor decision if a friend convinced her she should.

    As a gun owner - ask me! Ask me if I own a gun, if I would be sure that it's locked up while the kids are playing. I do, and it's usually locked up, but you might prompt me to just double check and look one more time to keep our kids safe. Any reasonable gun-owner shouldn't be offended. You might offend a non-gun owner by implying they have a gun. But they should get over that pretty quickly with a "can't be too careful right?"

    Good luck with your play dates. My daughter is in 3rd and I still have to push myself to be sure to connect with other families.


  3. I think you can definitely ask! And if they don't appreciate the question it probably isn't an appropriate environment for your child anyway. It is such a hard balancing act but as a mom as well, I have decided that until I know the family well, I stay and hang out at the play date too or invite them to my house.

  4. This is an interesting post, and you bring up good points - quite salient is, "How does one trust a person one barely knows?" Such is the life of play dates, and news media reports.

    Living in the country, I live around people with guns, and most of them are quite reasonable and practical about it -- they know what guns do, they know that young children are vulnerable, and they don't keep loaded weapons laying around. The news media has done a good job of terrorizing people with the threat of guns, without differentiating between the thug with the gun, and the homeowner with the gun.

    When my children were younger, I made a point of getting to know the parents of the people with whom they played -- often this was reciprocal, as they wanted to know the parents with whom their children played. We wanted assurance that a sensible adult would be in the home, that the environment was safe, and that the child would be treated with respect.

  5. This was a well written article Ashleigh. I hadn't really thought of it much because my girls don't go on play dates much, I feel more comfortable with kids coming here because I have such stress thinking of what could be happening, or trusting these practically strangers to take care of my kids. I do know that my oldest daughter's best friend (10 yr old) loves to go shooting with her dad, and even has her own kid sized rifle. She has taken gun safety courses and always tells me how they keep their guns locked up in a safe in the garage and the kids don't know the combination. I still worry though. We don't have guns and I've only told them that guns aren't toys and if someone is acting like a gun is a toy they need to leave the situation.

  6. I think it's completely strange that children can be near guns, when we grew up it was inconceivable that guns were even real- just some strange thing they had on the telly. Would not trust children anywhere near guns. Especially after the news story the other day about that little boy killing another girl over puppies. Crazy world.

  7. Hard topic! We have to have a gun in our house (husbands job) and I know when we have kids this topic will be much more relevant! It's hard to know where to draw the line and I am sure as a mother, how to handle the situation!

  8. It seems to me that guns aren't the only danger for your child in the home of people you don't know. They could have a dangerous dog, a family member who acts criminally toward children, toxic household cleaners, or prescription medications that are not kept safe. Even a poorly taken care of jump rope or curtain cord can be deadly to a child. It is best to know the other parents and have a feel for how responsible they are before you drop your child off.

    Having said that, many - if not most- gun owners are offended by personal questions about whether they own firearms and how they store them. But, most I know are NOT offended by you saying "Our family policy concerning guns is ________________. If I send my child to your house for a playdate, is there anything I should worry about/be aware of?" That way, instead of asking for personal information, you're sharing personal information : )

    My late Mother was an avid gun owner. She was not at all offended by the neighbor saying, "We don't allow our children in houses with guns. If you have a gun, please don't allow our children to visit unaccompanied by us." In fact, she congratulated those parents for their good parenting : )

  9. Honestly, it terrifies me too. My son also just started kindergarten, and play dates with new kids hasn't come up yet. When it does, I'm not sure how I'll handle it because it is such a sensitive topic....yet my son's safety is more important. I hope I will be brave enough to ask the parent if there are guns in the house before I let him go there.

  10. I am totally with you on this. My son has one friend in particular that I know his parents have guns because he's in law enforcement and goes shooting a lot. I trust them to not leave them laying around, but you still just never know! Honestly, I just don't send my son over there anymore. :( Kind of sad but that's where I'm at right now. With my son's personality and maturity level I just can't trust him.

  11. Guns should really be at the bottom of your concern list. As accidental injuries to kids go, guns hardly rank. More kids are hurt or killed from things like unsecured appliances, toxins, bad electrical wiring, and ungated pools than from guns, and not by any small measure. It's honestly media hysterics that make it even something you would think is relevant.

    But if you want a real logical approach to it, find some of those kid safe house checklists online, and read them so it's fresh in your mind. Visit the home your kid is going to, and look for unsafe characteristics. The sort of people that won't do basic kid safe measures around the house are the same sort that would put a gun loaded and unlocked in some drawer or things like that. And not too say the gun couldn't end up being the accident that happens, but your kid is several times more likely to be seriously harmed other ways and really shouldn't be in the house.

    And lastly, as a measure of peace, California has laws mandating guns be locked up when unattended if minors are expected to be in the house, and all gun buyers in this state had to pass a test which included knowing about this state's safe gun laws.

    So, not saying that guns in the house are a non issue, but if a gun is laying around where a kid can get it, I guarantee that home has a dozen other very good reasons for your kid to not be there.

    Finally, if it's still a concern, just ask. It's not like your CPS going door to door on a witch hunt. As a long time shooter, I wouldn't get offended in the least that a parent didn't want their kid in a house with guns laying around. If asked, I would simply say, yes I have guns, and they are locked up at all times unless they are in my immediate control.

  12. Oh what an excellent topic to forge through, because it speaks to the reality we all face in allowing our kids to be in someone else's home- where we don't know the safety or the status of such weapons. I'm so glad you brought this up, because I think you have hit on something we need to discuss.

    I for one, think you have every right to ask. If you are trusting other parents with the safety and well being of your kid, you can ask about anything that may be a danger or harm to your kid.

    I know gun owners who are incredibly vigilant and safe with their guns... but it's different when you don't know the parents well.

  13. Great topic to raise! I really struggled with this because I felt like I SHOULD ask but I didn't feel comfortable asking. I remember being so grateful and impressed by my one friend whose husband is a hunter volunteering the information about how their guns were safely stored without my even asking her. I spent a lot of time talking to my kids about what they should do if one of their friends ever showed them a gun, but studies have shown that kids will often forget everything you've told them when an actual real gun is involved! Some commenters seem to be dismissive of this as a danger, but when I was a little girl a boy in my school accidentally killed himself with his father's gun, and I've never forgotten that. Don't apologize for being concerned--guns are a lot more dangerous and lethal than other dangers that your child might be more likely to encounter at a friend's home.

  14. This is such a tough issue. I do want to know if there are guns in the house, but I feel uncomfortable asking as well. I don't want my kids playing in a house with guns at all, if possible, but I feel so weird asking. It's a tough one! Thanks for sharing this difficult post at the Manic Mondays blog hop!

  15. I think in any situation where safety of a child is concerned, you don't worry about offending someone. If those parents find it offensive that you ask about gun safety, then your son shouldn't even be over there in my opinion. I know if someone scoffed at me asking this, I would take my son home immediately. We own guns, but they are always locked up and my son isn't even two. I will proudly tell any of his future friends' parents this when they ask. I would feel even more safe allowing my son to play with them at their houses knowing that their parents were concerned enough to ask me.

  16. That's a tough one. One that I haven't had to worry about because we have set up the rule (because we move so much and hardly ever have to opportunity to really get to know people) that my children are not allowed in other people's house. This includes their friends' house unless I am there. This serves multiple chance of stumbling upon guns, alcohol, cigarettes; it gets them outdoors; it puts the kids on neutral territory.

    Now, we have guns in the house. They are also locked up with ammo separate from them. We also talk with our kids about guns. That they are a tool and only to be used in certain circumstances. We have them shoot and gain a respect for guns. I have three boys. All three of my boys are very respectful of this tool and know that they are never to touch them without mommy or daddy around.

    It is interesting but at the end of the day, do be afraid of offending someone. Ask them. If they become offended then playdates can only take place outside. But most gun owners that aren't hardcore "my way is the only way" won't be offended and happy that you are being a responsible parent and are willing to work with you on a way to achieve happiness between both families,

  17. My little one is still very little so we really haven't done play dates that I am not present for. Honestly its not something I've put much thought into yet. While I am not opposed to people owning guns I am concerned about their location. I'm with you on finding a way to ask with out offending everyone. Great question!