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.
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.