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I live in Georgia.  I have a toddler.  We are just getting into the age of playdates and the like.  I have a question for everyone:

What is least confrontational way to ask a parent of a child's friend if they keep a gun in the house? And if they say yes, what is least confrontational way to politely say, "your child can come to my house, but my child won't be coming to yours?" Much as I'd like to try to convert them to my way of thinking, practically speaking I don't want to get into a political debate with them or interfere with my child's friend-making. It's a tough issue. Suggestions? How are you all handling this?

3:12 AM PT: Thanks to all for posts below.  Please understand that my question is not about whether or not to avoid a conflict.  I've already made my decision about whether my child will be in the house without me (NO).  I am focussed on minimizing the impact (on him) of that decision.

Another point to make is that someone self-reporting their guns are safely locked up changes nothing.  Self-reporting is notoriously unreliable.  If everyone who felt they had their guns secured were telling the truth, the incidence of gun accidents would be much lower in this country.  I have no gauge of whether a self-reported "safe" gun owner is really a "safe" gun owner.    And until such a gauge is developed, I must assume they are all unsafe unless I know them very very well.  So to those who are saying just inquire about their gun safety practices, I must respond that it does me very little good to hear "They are locked up/unloaded/secured etc."  All of them?  All of the time?  Are you sure?

Originally posted to noble experiment on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:19 PM PDT.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Direct is probably least (11+ / 0-)

    Confrontational, then you are simply after the information without editorial commentary.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:24:16 PM PDT

    •  Thanks (6+ / 0-)

      But hard to see how the "Well then your kid can come to my house, but my kid will not be at your house without me" doesn't come off as saying "I judge your home to be unsafe".  To be clear, I don't care about that very much, but with about 70% of local homes having a gun, this is certainly bound to impact my child's social life and friendships.  Some folks will undoubtedly be very offended (and those are lost causes we are better off without).  But the majority of parents will probably be OK with it if handled properly.  Those are the folks I want to manage the process for.

      •  Again, I find (9+ / 0-)

        Direct without any projection of what folks might infer is the best way to keep offense to a minimum.  You ask for information then say, don't want my child around guns. Kids welcome to play at my house, end of story.

        Don't introduce word "safe" as that's where the judgement comes in, since a gun owning household is likely to be that believes the guns DO make them safer.  Disagreement over the definition of "safe" is likely to be the offending dimension.

        If you keep it at a level of what you "prefer" ( quirky but individualism) rather than the judgemental editorializing, then the opportunity for people to be personally offended is minimized.

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:53:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yup, you've hit the core issue (8+ / 0-)

          Lots of regretful parents of kids who've been shot.  They all believed that their homes were safe.  No way to determine who is truly safe and who just thinks they are safe.

          When someone swears their guns are locked up, does that include all their guns?  Does that mean always?

          Just no way to differentiate responsible owners from irresponsible ones.  Self-reporting is notoriously unreliable.

          My instinct is the direct approach you describe.  I have no problem with directness.  But I am concerned about the impact it has on my son's social opportunities and his relationship with me as I impose this in community with a very high gun ownership rate.

          But it is what it is I suppose.

          •  It's amazing we survived our childhood (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Midwest is best
            But I am concerned about the impact it has on my son's social opportunities and his relationship with me as I impose this in community with a very high gun ownership rate
            I always felt sorry for the kids with parents like that, who couldn't play with everyone because their parents were neurotic.    We all somehow lived through whatever dangers those parents were so afraid of.   I lived in a house with my sister with multiple loaded guns that weren't locked up, and liquor that wasn't locked up and medicine that wasn't locked up, and somehow we all lived to tell the tale.   It was simple.  Our parents said, "Don't touch that.  You could get hurt.", and they were obviously so very, very worried about it, that it made us worried about it.  Kids pick up on what you worry about.  It's what you didn't think to worry about that gets you.

            It's for every parent to decide where to draw the line.  Even if you lock yourself in your house, and never go out, there is still a long list of ways you can hurt yourself, starting with the many ways you kill yourself by falling -- falling with scissors, falling and cracking your head on stone or tile, falling down a flight of stairs, falling out a window from the second story, falling into a toilet and drowning, having furniture falll on you.  Then, there's choking.  Insect bites and allergic reactions.   Burning and scalding.  Carbon Monoxide.   Poison and overdose (no matter how much you think you childproofed), electrocution, sharp objects, strangulation, suffocation.   I saw a video of a dog one time, at the foot of a backyard slide, pushing a child back up the slide just enough to keep the kid from choking because the hoodie cord got caught as the kid went down the slide.   No matter how much you think you've got it covered, your kid may not be any safer at your own house than at someone else's.  

            We kids used to wander around in the woods for hours risking rattlenake bites, and ride on three wheelers that could have tipped over on us, and ride horses that could have pitched us over their heads.  

            I treasure those memories.

            Eventually, you adapt.   You accept you can't control everything.  You do what you can.  You teach your kids, then trust your kids to do what they can, and trust other parents to do what they can.  Sometimes, even the family dog or cat pitches in to keep the kids safe.  Did you see the video of the cat chasing off the dog that attacked the kid?   Between all of us, we manage to keep most of the dangers at bay.  And, as they get older, the kids watch out for each other, too.  That helps.  

            You can't control everything, no matter how much you want to.


            •  Guns are an exception. Period. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Glen The Plumber, Miggles
              •  I feel really sorry for your kid (0+ / 0-)

                You've described your situation.   You live in an area where there are high rates of gun ownership.   Owning a gun is legal, so your neighbors are not breaking any laws, but you've decided you are offended by their gun ownershpi and refuse to allow your child to visit any home with a gun in it, even if they assure you it's locked up, which, by definition of your area as having a high rate of gun ownership, eliminates most of your chld's friends.   Note, that all your child's friends are alive, running around and having great fun, despite their burden of living in the home of a gun owner.

                Now, I'll add in this nugget.   My policy as a parent is that if a child can't come to my house to visit, my child can't go to their house to visit.   This is a fairly common rule that I've observed many parents to follow.  And, second policy is that if a child's parent is too much of a pain in the ass, we don't play with that kid.  Life is too short.

                So, when you determine that your child's friend is in the majority of people in your area, and they do have a gun, and so you don't allow your child to play there, and you invite the kid to play at your house, their parents say "no" because you have made it clear that they can't reciprocate and they don't want to be in your debt, particularly as you have insulted them by making it clear their home is not good enough for your child.

                I knew kids like this when I grew up, and I know kids like this now, who would like to participate in the fun things my kids are doing, but can't.   I don't know them very well, because they never go out of their house.  They are left out of what's going on.  They don't get to do what the other kids are doing.   And, they know it.  When we occasionally encounter them, carefully shepherded by their very watchful parents, they look at us with a sort of sad, desperate "Help!!   Let Me Out Of Here!!" look on their face, but there is nothing we can do.  We ask if they are on Facebook, so the kids can visit online, but, of course, they aren't.

                Child-rearing is about more than physical safety.  Participating in the world around you is important.   And, growing up is about more than living in a plastic bubble.   Navigating the dangers of life is part of growing up.

                Being a parent can be a very anxious experience, but when our anxieties start disrupting a child's normal development, and prevents them from participating in the world around them, playing with their friends, doing what the other kids are doing, that's not good parenting.  And, their ignorance, after missing out on all those lessons that they are supposed to learn from playing with their friends, are just as likely to put them in danger as whatever it was that you were so afraid of in the first place -- guns, in this case.

                •  I feel sorry for you (0+ / 0-)

                  You know nothing about me or how I am raising my child (that would be the four year old who was on a Jet-ski, tubing behind a motor boat today and swimming by himself in the river).

                  Yet, through some form of irrational superiority complex and assuredness, you would presume to judge my parenting off of one request for advice on this site.  And imply that my child is "sad" and "desperate" and wears a "Help!!   Let Me Out Of Here!!" look on his face.

                  I'd be offended if I gave a shit about you.  But I don't.  I expect I will encounter a few parents like you.  I am fine with the fact that I will lose you and that my son will not be in your house.  Cockiness like yours and gun ownership are typically dangerous.  It's the more rational folks in the middle, people who own guns but aren't presumptuous assholes, that I am trying to better manage my interaction with.

  •  Maybe state it's against your religion to allow (8+ / 0-)

    your child to be in a home where there's a gun.

    Whether this is true or not, it might buy you some space.

    (I got this idea from vegetarians who said they were constantly pressed to eat meat as they travelled -- "Our meat is good, you'll like it" -- until they finally said it was a religious proscription.  People thought they were crazy, but left them alone about it.)

    Honestly, I don't know.  I'm not sure there's a chance you won't alienate the gun owners; that may be the price you have to pay for keeping your child safer.

    © cai Visit to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:32:09 PM PDT

  •  No, it's not (6+ / 0-)
    It's a tough issue.
    Continued good relations with a neighbor who fails to lock up his/her guns versus the possibility of your child's dying.

    Not even a close call.

    I am a warrior for peace. And not a gentle man... Steve Mason, 1940-2005

    by Wayward Wind on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 11:57:37 PM PDT

  •  My approach (5+ / 0-)

    You speak in a concerned and respectful tone, and use non-confrontational language, and mix it in with some other common-sense concerns.

    You say something like...   "Can you please tell me who will be there?    Also, if you have any guns are they locked up?    And, do you have a pool?   I hope you don't mind my asking.   I ask everyone that."

    •  Great! (4+ / 0-)

      Because what you care about is whether the house is child-safe. There are lots of things that can kill a child. A house with the guns and liquor locked up is safer than one with an unfinished electrical project that has live wires sticking out.

      If you ask about hazards in general, your neighbors will understand that it's because you care about your kids's safety and not because you hate guns.

      Anyone considering a dog for personal safety should treat that decision as seriously as they would buying a gun.

      by Dogs are fuzzy on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 12:52:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  All true, but (2+ / 0-)

        short of handing them a checklist or performing a house inspection, I'm not sure how to implement this suggestion.  And asking what hazards are in your house is generally going to get "I have child-proofed my house".

        I don;t really think the "do  you have guns" part of this inquiry is the difficult part.  It's the "well then my child isn't coming over to your child's play date" that will cause problems.  It is likely to elicit a lot of "The gun is secured, etc."  Saying, "sorry, but I just don't feel comfortable even though you say it is secure" is where the issue comes ot a head in my mind

        •  True (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Midwest is best, chimene

          Handing them a checklist would be really odd, and might make people wonder if they need you in their life, and then whatever it is you forgot to put on your checklist is what would get you.     You could just lock your kids in the basement, and then your only concerns are...   a gas explosion, a murderous home invader, carbon monoxide, electrocution, the building collapsing, a deadly fall (on the top of the list of child dangers), injuries playing with other children (also on the top of list of child dangers), scalding/burns (also on the top of the list of child dangers)....   Or, you could do what other parents do and, respect the other parents, and assume they know how to raise kids just as well as you do, and just touch on your top concerns.    

          At some point, as a parent, you recognize that life is inherently dangerous.   You focus on training your children to recognize and respond to the most important dangers, you make some effort to assess the environment and remove some of the worst dangers in the environment, you get to know the people your kids are hanging out with in general, you talk to parents about a few obvious concerns, knowing that you can never touch on them all, and after that, whatever doesn't kill you is a "teachable moment".

          If guns are your biggest phobia, then do go ahead and make that one of the few concerns that you discuss with other parents.   You might ask yourself, "Is it rational that this is my biggest concern?", though, by checking the  statistics on child deaths, to see what are really the biggest killers of children.     It is a valid concern, of course, but is it rational to place the emphasis on it that you are placing on it, if, in reality, there are other concerns that are more likely to cause a child death?  

          Here is a chart that demonstrates the top causes of accidental death.   It's interesting that "unintentional firearm" is not listed in the top three or four for children under ten.   What is listed, is intentional homicide (someone meant to aim and shoot the child, and was probably an older person), and that falls below the top concerns, which are unintentional falls, poisoning, natural disasters, and being struck (a hard blow to the chest can stop the heart).

          The unintentional deaths by firearm becomes the main concern at about age ten.   At that age, children can be your allies in keeping them safe.   So, to avoid this risk, the important thing to do is teach your children gun safety, which starts with don't pick up a gun and if someone else picks up a gun, tell them to put it down, get something very dense between you and the gun, and/or get out of there.  

          Another great way to keep your kids safe, is to get a gun and go out with your child and shoot one, at least one time.   Guns are loud and the brain has a wonderful habit of storing away information on loud and startling noises, and making a note to not do that again.   I truly believe that children who have heard a gun fired, and realize what a loud and shocking experience it is, are more careful when they encounter a gun.   They begin to treat it more like a snake that will bite them.

  •  "How do you store your guns" (5+ / 0-)

    "Is ammunition stored in the same place?"

    Ask those questions.

    •  Respectfully, the answer changes nothing (5+ / 0-)

      Self-reporting you have taken safe precautions is unreliable.  If every gun owner who swore they were practicing safe storage were actually doing so, their would be far fewer gun accidents in this country.

      I am not trying to ascertain whether my child should be in a home with a gun of someone I don't know extremely well.  The answer is no, even if they "own a gun safe", "store their ammo in a different part of the home" or the world famous "my kid knows they'll get an ass-whoopin' if they touch my gun".

      I'm not trying to change them or their gun practices (not in this action, anyway).  I'm not looking to discuss it with them.  I'm just looking to keep my kid safe while reducing the impact of him on my taking these precautions.

  •  Well, one way I'm handling it is by sending a (7+ / 0-)

    link to your diary to my son who has my year and a half old grandson.

    Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

    by Smoh on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 02:55:36 AM PDT

  •  Nothing you can do (3+ / 5-)

    You have to figure a lot of people like me would just lie straight faced back to you. Then when your kid gets older make an effort to subvert them by letting them shoot bb guns. My wife gives me hell but I love pissing off PC liberals. We live one block from the Boulder County line, it's a target rich environment.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 06:30:23 AM PDT

  •  As long as your child is a toddler (3+ / 0-)

    I wouldn't have he/she go to another house without you being there too. That way, you can spend time getting to know the other parents and get an idea of their feelings about guns.

    Friend them on Facebook. Occasionally post something from Moms Demand Action to gauge their reactions.

    Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

    by JamieG from Md on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 08:21:42 AM PDT

  •  good job! (6+ / 0-)

    thanks~for discussion of concerns and alternatives, and for taking a stand on behalf of sanity and children

    here's some discussion online, there's more than you might think!
    Playdates at Homes with Guns  
    Berkeley Parent Network

    Is there an unlocked gun in the house?
    Asking Saves Kids

    This one has a really good structured approach~
    Unlock the Conversation
    Gun Safe Moms

    Before Arranging Playdates, Ask About Guns


  •  I have to believe many gun owners would deny (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    churchylafemme, Glen The Plumber

    having guns in the house.

    They know why you are asking the question. And would act to prevent their home/children from being ostracized.

  •  Locking up guns. (4+ / 0-)

    I know a number of people who are very responsible in general and have guns which they don't use much from the past.  They think the guns are suitably stored, but they're actually in some kind of not really locked cabinet or up in an attic, etc.  That's one kind of danger.

    A different structure applies to generally responsible people who are currently interested in guns.  They seem to really keep them locked up in gun safes but take them out a lot.  And, it's rarely all the guns that are locked up.  That's another kind of danger.

    Then there are the generally irresponsible people who just leave the guns around.

    The kids vary as well.  Younger ones who on finding a gun don't really know the danger and older ones who want to try out as much as they can.  Never underestimate the relentless curiosity of the first set in finding anything.  Never underestimate the ability of older kids and teenagers to get into whatever the adults think they have locked away.

    For the results read GunFAIL.

    Mandatory Gun Insurance would provide for victims, encourage safety and not be an excessive burden on gun owners. How to do it at Gun Insurance Blog. I also make posts at Huffington as Tom Harvey.

    by guninsuranceblog on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 04:14:20 PM PDT

  •  Judging me as a parent. (6+ / 0-)

    Disappointed that some here would just my parenting because I posted this question, knowing nothing else about me.

    I guess some people just can't help themselves.

    •  Thank you for calling this out ^ (4+ / 0-)

      If it's the comment I think it obviously is, this person is a construction contractor, at least we're treated to constant reminders of such, and is a zealot about guns, any guns, easy guns, lots of guns, so you may be relieved to know that the zeal has done much to coalesce people against them. Where in this does it suggest the ability to make informed comments on parenting. There's more to it than just having the child. Certainly not someone I'd look to for advice on parenting, or anything for that matter. Not even a flat tire.

      It's wrong what he did, to put you down, a sincere diarist and parent, to make a stupid and illogical political point—he holds himself up as a bastion of propriety, if that were the case he should by rights apologize.  

      A couple of cultural notes: it's an honor to be HRed by RKBA, and he's definitely RKBA. If it were them that this happened to, they'd be throwing hissy fits from here to Idaho.  Oh we would not hear the end of it.

      Your diary attracted them, point for you, and all they could do was make cheap shots, I mean really, AngryAllen's comment? two more points for you.

      You win and I think your child wins too.

      •  Thanks, old tree (5+ / 0-)

        I considered explaining more about why I was asking the question, more about the strengths and weaknesses of my INDIVIDUAL child, what an amazingly independent and adventurous child I have and how many ways I support that, but hell, why bother?  I don't have to explain myself to anyone but my son and my conscience.

      •  I will note that one "pro-gun" person above... (3+ / 0-)

        did give me food for thought.  Demystifying guns in the way that I have demystified things like household chemicals, etc. is something I would consider doing.

        There is some logic to (at the right age) taking him out one time and shooting with him.  Fortunately amongst friends and relatives I have ready access too weapons and a safe environment to do that.

        And at a much older age, I will, as was done for me make him familiar with the basics of gun possession and use.

        •  There's so much more than can be done (2+ / 0-)

          That is a tiny part of what you can teach (I had a lengthy reply all written and hit the wrong button, my cat is competing for the keyboard, I'm playing birdsong on youtube to cover fireworks and she want to get to the birdies, of course.)

          I first shot at 7 yo, and learned it wasn't up to my taste. My interests are more intellectual and say, quiet. Some parents I have come to see would force it on a child.

          I think finding out what's important to the child is the clue, if the child's interested, great, build that path, if the child's interested in say veterinary science, then pursue that instead.
          Gun lovers here have said repeatedly that we are irrationally afraid of guns. That is a dangerous falsehood they paint to maintain the mystery. One should have caution, it's a healthy thing to have, just as one should be cautious of drunk drivers and hot burners on stoves.

          Shooting one doesn't much demystify, a little, demystifying should include:

          *Showing how utterly stupid Angelina Joile and Brad Pitt looked in that movie, no injury, no messed hair, that is call out the propaganda

          *Showing how guns are used in fictional plots to fill in space

          *Showing how guns are used in certain kinds of behaviors (aggression, threats, standowns), but not suitable for others (diplomacy, dialogue), TV and movies use them a lot because they're sensational, but that's all they are

          *The extent that someone can look really stupid with a gun (I'm thinking the bangers, wannabes, brandishers, all the fakery we have these days) and finally

          *Some way to introduce the medical and biological harm and courses of action should it come to that

          Thanks NE. Have a safe 4th.

  •  We've addressed this very issue in my congregation (3+ / 0-)

    I wrote a letter to all religious school families attending preschool through high school using the template the Brady Campaign provides.


    Our letter was a combination of the School Memo project which is sent to homes and schools to remind parents that by CA law, they are required to keep their guns locked up, ammunition separate, and educating families how to ASK if there are guns in the home your child may be visiting.

    The link above will take you to the Brady Campaign, ASKING Saves Kids pages.

    You are posing such an important question that I hope others will pause to consider this. My apologies if this link was provided in the threads above, I haven't the time to scroll through and read all of the comments but wanted to get this to you.

    "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass... it is about learning to dance in the rain." ~ Vivanne Grenne Shop Kos Katalogue!

    by remembrance on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 01:54:51 PM PDT

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