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Full Disclosure For A Play Date?

I was at my weekly playgroup recently when
the talk around the mom’s table turned to crime. I’m
not sure how we got there – discussing my move from New York,
I think. At any rate, while talking about crime and fear, someone
brought up guns. In the home.

One mother said, “I’ve just never been comfortable with
the idea of having a gun in the house. I mean, I’d be so
afraid the kids would get hurt.” I was sitting there
thinking, Of course! Who WOULD be comfortable with a gun in the
house? I’d be afraid that I would get hurt! But if the
weighted, uneasy looks shared between a couple of the moms after
that statement is any indication (and I think it’s safe to
assume it is), then I’m most likely going to have a playdate
in the somewhat near future in a house that has a gun.

Now I realize I grew up in Texas, but I
spent most of my adult life in New York and I can’t picture
any of my friends there owning a gun, much less having one after a
child shows up. In all fairness, New York isn’t really the
land of hunting and shotguns passed down from father to son, so if
there’s a gun in the house it’s most likely a handgun
and more vocational than recreational, if you get my drift. And I
knew that when we moved back to Texas, we were moving back to a
totally different mindset, to the home of the fierce protection of
the Right to Bear Arms.

But for some reason, it simply never occurred to me that I’d
be in any of those arms-bearing households. At most, if I thought
about it at all, there would perhaps be a small cache of hunting
rifles locked up in a storage unit for weekend excursions.
I’m now realizing, though, that it’s not outside the
realm of possibility that one of my kids will be playing in a house
where there’s a handgun hidden somewhere in the master

I’m not trying to weigh in on the whole gun control topic
here, though I can’t help but reveal my opinion with this
piece. I’m not saying that people don’t have the
constitutional right to own a gun: that right exists and I’m
not going to argue it, and I’m not going to pass over a
potential friend just because she believes in collecting guns.

But if I’m being honest, I have to say that if I knew someone
had a gun in their house, I would think twice about allowing
playdates there. Not right now, when Maddie’s two years old
and the toddlers are still closely supervised. But when the kids
become five, or six, or eight, and have more unsupervised play, I
would want to know if she was in a household with a gun. Especially
if her playdate was with a boy; sorry to generalize, but IN GENERAL
I think dads are more likely to show and explain their guns to
their sons than their daughters, and IN GENERAL boys are more
likely than girls to think a gun is cool and to want to show it off
to a friend.

Do I have a right to ask a friend if she has a gun in her house
before allowing a sleepover? Is it awful for me to ask my friend
where the gun is stored, if it’s locked up, if it’s
loaded? I don’t think a two-year-old can get to a loaded gun
in a safe on top of a shelf in a locked closet; but I also think
that any gun that is easily enough accessed to be of use by the
homeowner in the event of a break-in can be gotten to by, say, a
bored 10-year-old on a Saturday morning when the rest of the family
is at big sister’s swim meet. And there’s no getting
around the fact that in homes with guns, a member of the household
is almost three times as likely to be the victim of a homicide
compared to gun-free homes.*

One of my best friends is a strong believer in private gun
ownership; she grew up on a farm with a dad who kept a shotgun
close at hand. She also grew up learning how to be respectful of
firearms and goes to great measures to make sure her son
can’t get anywhere near them. I’ve known her for years
and know how responsible she is on the issue, so I don’t have
a problem allowing Maddie in her house relatively unsupervised.
That being said, though, I know my friend has a permit to carry a
concealed weapon and I’m only half-joking when I say
I’ll think twice before allowing Maddie to get a piece of gum
out of my friend’s purse.

I know that my readers out there who own a gun are probably feeling
defensive right now, and I apologize. I also know that all my
international readers are probably amazed that this is even an
issue, since gun control seems to be a uniquely American topic. I
don’t want to tell my kids’ friends’ parents not
to own a gun. But is it unreasonable for me to want to know if they
have one, and what precautions they’ve taken with it? At some
point, worrying about making my friends defensive or uncomfortable
has to take a back seat to protecting my children. I just
don’t know what that point is.

What do you think?


*Kellermann AL, Rivara FP, et al. "Gun ownership as a risk factor
for homicide in the home." NEJM 329:15 (1993):1084-1091


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