The Loaded Question Every Mom Should Ask

I sat at my computer, trying to find the right way to compose the question.
“I hope you aren’t offended, but…”
“It’s nothing personal…”
“Please forgive me if I sound neurotic…”

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Why was this so difficult? I was trying to ask a question of the parent whose house my daughter would be visiting for a playdate. It’s a question that is likely on every parent’s mind before sending their child to play at a home outside of their immediate circle. Yet there I sat, frozen fingers on a keyboard. Why was this question so difficult when others are so easy?

When a friend offers my child a treat, I ask without hesitation, “Does it have nuts?” because she has a nut allergy and I don’t want her to have a reaction. I would never say, “Please don’t think I’m crazy, but does that cookie have nuts?” I don’t offer a litany of reasons or preface it with, “I’m one of those over-protective moms…” or, “I don’t have a problem with you eating nuts, and they really do look delicious…”


When I thought about it that way, I realized that I didn’t want to qualify, apologize, or explain my question. I just really needed to know:

“Do you have unlocked guns in your home?”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center’s organization, Asking Saves Kids wrote this question as a potentially life-saving measure when it comes to our kids and gun safety. Why aren’t we all asking this question? I’ve never been asked. Until recently, I didn’t ask either.

I thought more about whether or not my child would encounter peanut butter than a loaded gun.

The reason? Politics are scarier than peanut butter.

Discussing guns, unlike many other safety issues, is associated with one of the most politically charged issues in our national discourse. When we think about guns, we think about the second amendment, the gun lobby, school shootings, terrorists. We think about politics. And what have we been taught about politics? We’ve been taught that we don’t discuss that, or religion, when making friends, visiting family…or apparently when arranging playdates.


gun safety

The next time your child is invited to a new house to play, ask all the usual questions to allay your concerns or to address your child’s special needs. And, if you don’t already, add this simple question: “Do you have unlocked guns in your home?” Try not to make judgments about whether or not they own guns.

Remind yourself that we can own guns, or not own guns, and still share a common goal of wanting to keep our kids safe.

Acknowledge that even with our education, concern, and best intentions, our kids are not safe unless we all start asking.

Asking Saves Kids offers a pledge that you can sign and share.


Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.


  1. Sure is a loaded question. Let me be the first to respond with another loaded question, have you as a parent talked to your kids about safe gun handling? Have you ever told them to never point guns at people especially themselves? Have you ever told them that if they ever find a gun to not touch it and find an adult? It might not be my gun they find, but I would prefer your children know what to do when they find a gun. They could find a gun a criminal chucked in the ditch or a civil war relic, but I would prefer your children knew how to handle whatever they find safely than have an accident. Take responsibility to teach before casting aspersions on gun owners.

  2. Absolutely I also teach her about gun safety, what to do if she encounters one. This post was just specifically about asking other parents as I don’t think enough adults are taking gun safety seriously. We need more people like you to advocate gun safety too!

    • It’s a fair question and good to ask a new play date’s parents, and I definitely like the way you have worded it, and I don’t think that is offensive. I personally store mine locked when I have company, but others may not for example some people prefer to store unlocked and taken apart. Also the never point guns at people rule should apply to toy guns as well just last year a boy in Tennessee was shot by a policeman because he pointed a toy gun at him.

  3. What was the answer you got? This is actually an easy question if you have the sense that the person is on the same page you are.

    What is trickier to navigate (if you care about your child having a relationship with theirs), is what happens if they say (oh, well yeah we have a such-n-such, but the kids would never….)

    Do you say, oh OK, well I’d prefer Johnny comes over to our house then. (?)
    Good luck not sounding judgmental.

  4. DB,

    You are absolutely right! The question and the dialogue that follows is potentially tricky. I offer to have the kids meet up at a park or Children’s museum or at my place, and am honest with, “I’m just cautious, and there have been so many accidental deaths with guns and kids I hope you can understand my caution….”

    I think we can talk about our preferences with our kids’ safety without being judgmental–it’s just that we haven’t talked about it enough. Thanks for reading!

    It’s also important as another commenter pointed out to teach our kids what to do if they find a gun.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.