I’m Calling to Schedule a Playdate and Find Out if You Have Any Guns in Your Home


Jim Higley believes his role as a parent means asking uncomfortable questions in order to help keep his children safe. 

Last week, the Good Men Project asked me to weigh in on a topic they were contributing to which explored parents comfort with talking to other parents regarding guns in homes.

“In all your years as a parent, Jim,” they asked me, “have you ever talked to the parents of your children’s friends about guns in homes and safety issues?”

Candidly, I thought this was kind of a black and white topic. How can they make a story out of this? They might as well have asked me if kids should be allowed to eat. Or sleep.

But as I spent a day or so researching this topic, I discovered that it’s not black and white for many parents. It’s downright heebie jeebie way outside a lot of parents’ comfort zone.

And I find that downright interesting.

I find it interesting that some parents feel it’s too personal or judgmental to approach this topic with other parents. But it’s helped me realize that, for me, this is a pretty black and white topic. My role in protecting my children to the best of my abilities is black and white. It means I will regularly be put in awkward and uncomfortable situations. It doesn’t mean I have to be rude or inconsiderate. But I do have to be a parent.

When my oldest was a little guy, his best buddy lived next door. And his best buddy’s daddy (a good friend of mine) was an avid hunter. I am not. Perhaps that relationship helped grease my own comfort zone in talking about guns with other parents. My neighbor—back when our boys were still toddlers—openly talked to me about how his guns were locked in a cabinet with a combination lock. He also explained the importance of keeping ammo in a separate location (I never knew but it certainly makes sense!).

One-third of the homes in our country have guns. Perhaps in your neighborhood it’s less than that. Perhaps it’s more. But, if this is a topic you haven’t thought much about, you will be surprised to find out who does have guns. I encourage you to have conversations with the parents of your young children’s friends about this. And if you’re still a little intimidated, consider this:

  • Start the conversation in a group of parents. It might be less awkward.
  • When your child has made a friend and you are getting to know that child’s parents, proactively mention safety in your home (and whether or not you have guns). It will get the conversation going.
  • Finally don’t be afraid to be forthright and say, “I’m so glad our children are playing together! My son/daughter and I have been talking a lot about safety in other people’s home and I wanted to ask you about your house. Do you have dogs? Do you have guns?” You get the idea.

Some have said to me, “But I don’t want to offend someone!”  To you, I offer you the following story about kids and peanut allergies.

If your child has a peanut allergy, I’m guessing you are very comfortable telling the parents of your child’s friends about this safety concern. In fact, I know you tell them because you would never put your child in a situation where he or she was exposed to peanuts and cause serious health problems, right? I’m also sure when you tell parents about your little one’s peanut allergy, they respond with concern and compassion and ask questions, right?

And all of that makes you feel good. You gain comfort knowing that the other parent is responsible and shares your concern for your child (just as you feel responsible for their child’s safety).

So what if, when telling a parent about your kid’s peanut allergy, they brush it off. They say that “peanut allergies are blown way out of proportion” and that you shouldn’t worry so much. I’m betting your radar would go up. And you probably would develop an opinion about how safe your child might be in that home.

And it likely guides your thought process the next time your son or daughter gets invited over to that house to play.

Get the conversation going with other parents about guns in home, won’t you. 99% of those parents will welcome a thoughtful conversation; most gun owners understand safety concerns and will respect your asking. Be considerate. This is not the discussion to get on a soapbox and preach all of your thoughts about our country’s gun laws. This is a discussion about how we, as parents, work together to keep kids safe in our respective homes.

And if you run into anyone who is offended and thinks differently about gun safety in the home, remember my story about peanut allergies.


Originally appeared at Bobblehead Dad

Also read: Trying to Keep Kids Safe in a Gun-Obsessed World


Photo: Flickr/mrbill



About Jim Higley

Jim Higley, the Bobblehead Dad, is a writer, speaker, life observer, and cancer warrior. His favorite role, however, is being "Dad" to his three kids. Check out his blog here. He can also be seen as one of the iVoices on iVillage and can be heard on his weekly radio show on fatherhood, Bobblehead Dad. Jim is a regular parenting and health contributor to The Huffington Post. He is the author of Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew. He was recently named World’s Greatest Dad by Man of the House. His kids are contesting this, however.


  1. Dan Flowers says:

    Lars – Exactly where do you live, where there are no guns at all?

    • Dan – reading comprehension, it’s important. I didn’t say there’s no guns *at all* where I live. I said that being concerned if homes my kids are visiting have guns and what could happen if those guns are left where the kids can get at them is not an issue.

      I live in Denmark. Sure, ppl have guns here. But I have never, ever in my 40+ years seen a gun lying about in a private home. Or stored where kids – or adults – could see it. Or seen ppl handling guns in their home, unless a hunt was being prepared. It just does not happen. So – there’s about a 1000 things I’d worry about my before I got to my kids coming upon guns when visiting a friend.

      • Dan Flowers says:

        Lars, You assume that because you haven’t seen one unsecured that it isn’t possible. It is. Your assertion almost reeks of an ethno-centrism or Danish superiority. In your defense, I believe certain cultural groups DO have less trouble with gun accidents. In the case of Denmark I suspect that a large majority of those guns are for sporting purposes only and do stay under lock and key more of the time. In America however, the gun is more often used as a tool of self-defense which means that it needs to be kept readily accessible rather than locked in a safe in another part of your home. If you cannot access a gun in seconds after the first indication of trouble, it may not help you to defend yourself. That is why guns (for defense) are often found in living or sleeping areas where they can be accessed quickly. That unfortunately is why they are sometimes ( by oversight) not secured properly. Still, like you, in the culture where I live, I have never known personally of a child accidentally shot with a firearm in the home. I can’t ever such an instance in any of the communities in which I have lived and we are literally awash in firearms. I know it happens because I have heard about it in the news from distant cities. I believe the difference is cultural. In the place I live is in the South (horror) fairly rural (double-knuckle-dragger-horror) and the vast majority of kids know about and have had a lot of exposure to guns. There is no mystery to them. If you look geographically at the areas with the highest gun violence and the highest accident rates, it is NOT in the areas where gun ownership is highest. It is in the areas where gun ownership is lowest due to bans or cultural bias. Unfamiliarity is the driving force behind most accidents IMO.

        • Dan, you sure are defensive. You go an accuse me of “ethno-centrism” and I don’t know what, and the next moment you make essentially the same point I did.

          Yes, of course it’s cultural. What did you expect? I do understand that in the US, people have guns for self-defense. Not so here. In fact, getting a license for a non-sports handgun is going to be next to impossible. Yes, that’s cultural. Which brings me back to my initial comment – I’m happy to live in a place where the culture is such that I don’t have to worry about guns.

          Why is it so upsetting to you that there are places in the world where the gun culture is very different from what you’re used to? Why the name-calling?

          • I hear you Lars. I’m an American – and live in the South, even – and I can’t fathom why so many people here are so attached to their guns to the point where they lash out at anyone who’s not as gun-crazed as they are, calling them irresponsible parents, reeking of ethnic superiority, and all the other nutty things that have been said here.

            All I can say is we’re not all like that, and some of us are tired of having to live among people who are, and live with the consequences of their attachment to guns.

            • “If you look geographically at the areas with the highest gun violence and the highest accident rates, it is NOT in the areas where gun ownership is highest. It is in the areas where gun ownership is lowest due to bans or cultural bias.”
              Read more at http://goodmenproject.com/families/im-calling-to-schedule-a-playdate-and-find-out-if-you-have-any-guns-in-your-home/#0s2pRoD0dbLHFyEz.99
              I was so glad Dan included this statement in his comments. The South is not NYC, Chicago, CA, or the USA/Mexican border. There are a few “crazed” gun owners, just like there are a few “crazed” zero tolerant persons. Those of us who own guns or even if we don’t own guns, but still believe in the RIGHT of the 2nd Amendment, believe the far reaching tentacles of the government—federal, state, or local—should have very little, if any, say or control over the citizens’ right to bear arms, for hunting, for protection, for sportman competitions, for collections, for whatever.
              By the way, my initial response to Dan’s advice to question other parents about having guns in their homes repelled me; I immediately thought it is no one’s business. However, I continued reading and considered his analogy to peanut allergies, and I’ve come to the conclusion that is within parental purview to respectfully, but candidly ask other parents about guns in their homes IF my child is going to be spending any time in their homes, day or night. So, you see, we are not all “crazed.”

          • Dan Flowers says:

            Lars… It was an ironic parallel… To how gun owners are stereotyped and considered ethnocentric, and “crazed”; assigned personality traits not necessarily in evidence because of preconception. Paige drove the nail home for me. Thank you Paige.

            • Just to be clear: I don’t think all gun owners are “gun nuts.” I know plenty who are not. But you have definitely exhibited the type of personality traits that fit my definition of a “gun nut” as opposed to just a gun owner.

              • Dan Flowers says:

                Paige, while I am a professional trainer, I am no kind of nut at all. I do not collect large numbers of guns, worship them, fondle them or have wet dreams about shooting them. I am a perfectly well-adjusted person who does not need a penis extension. I view guns as exactly what they are. They are a tool. An inanimate object with no will of its own, no capacity for good or evil. They are possibly more dangerous than a jigsaw, but certainly less dangerous than an automobile. Despite my lack of fanaticism about this tool, I have been witness to it’s villification as an evil destructive device my entire life, and because of my association with it either professionally or because of my status as a gun owner been villified and had my personality and motivations predisposed and prejudged for my entire adult life. I go to work, pay my taxes, don’t beat my wife too often and only rarely bite the heads off of live kittens. Again I wax to the sarcastic and ironic because to hear the opinions of those who are gun-phobic, my ownership (or defense of responsible parenting on this thread) apparently leads them to assume I am exactly such a person. Again, thank you for making my point about assumptions. You may continue making my point, or apologize for your presupposition at any time. If you read back a few of my posts, you will find that at no time do I ever take gun owners off the hook for their responsibility of keeping guns safely secured and out of the reach of children. I have simply stated that any parent who is serious about the safety of their child has an obligation to discuss safety with guns in the same vein that they would discuss any other potential danger that their child may encounter (swimming pools, poisons, electrical outlets, power tools, cars, talking to strangers, etc.). You can continue trying to paint me as a fanatic, but I don’t think a lot of people can disagree with my logic without admitting to themselves they have an irrational anti-gun bias which may ultimately impact their child’s safety if they never address the issue.

  2. Man – I’m glad I live in a place where this is not an issue – and where’s I’m not expected to teach my kids how to behave around firearms in order to be a responsible parent. Not that I would mind my kids visiting a household with guns; I’d absolutely trust parents to keep said guns in a place where my kid would not come across them. To me, the idea that dealing with said guns is in anyway my or my kids responsibility is sheer madness. But then, life on planet USA is a mystery in so many ways.

  3. Dan Flowers says:

    Bek C – If you detected a defensive tone to my initial post, it was because there is a back story. Before I tell it I will preface with my ideas about what I want to know before l even CONSIDER letting my child spend time at another home. First, I would have to know the parents WELL. Not a cursory conversation or Q&A, but actually have spent enough time socially around them to get a firm feel for their personality, ethics, level of responsibility, etc. I would know their profession and some of their background. I would probably have vetted them through asking mutual acquaintances for their impressions, and if I had enough information I might have even run a public records search for a criminal history. These are my children. I don’t trust them to just anyone, and by the time I am comfortable enough with someone to leave my child in their care, I probably don’t need to ask about guns. I will know the answer already. My children’s training also gives an extra redundant layer of security as well to give me the warm- fuzzies. Now to the back-story:

    A couple of years ago my (then 8 year old) daughter made a new best friend that she absolutely adored. She was continually badgering us to have her come for a sleepover. I refused unless I met her parents first and allowed them the chance to take our measure (as I would have expected) before letting her stay. Her parents however, were difficult to pin down for any social outings as families, and not especially talkative on the phone always seeming harried or rushed. They were more than willing to dump their child off at the house of people they barely knew however. A short play date was arranged. They seemed put off that I expected them to stay and talk for a few minutes instead of doing a drive-by handoff. When they arrived, I was wearing a polo shirt with my company logo on it. I am a former soldier and have been a professional firearms instructor for 25 years, and own a small business that does training for primarily law-enforcement and military customers. They immediately asked about the logo and I explained the facts I have just related in the nicest possible way. They responded with a look of incredulity mixed with horror, and said “Then you own guns?” Yes, I responded but assured them that they were all safely secured in an 800 lb safe and that there was no danger before inviting them in to meet my wife. The last part of my statement was to their backs as they were hustling their child (who they were so flippantly going to leave with strangers a moment before) towards their car while saying “I’m sorry but xxxxx can’t stay!”. I was taken aback but my daughter was crushed. She did not understand what was happening and was in tears. Even as I tried to explain it to her, she couldn’t understand. The girl told her later at school that her parents told her she should find another friend. The entire thing was her first exposure to pure irrational predjudice. My child was hurt because of people (adults) who had no reason to act the way they did. If it seems like I have a sore spot, maybe I do.

    • Well that’s a sad story, but you have an irrational prejudice yourself for judging everyone else by the actions of this one screwed up set of parents. It isn’t their discomfort with guns that makes them bad parents, it’s all the other stuff you mentioned – namely that they just aren’t involved enough in their child’s life to make any kind of informed parental decisions.

      But there are plenty of responsible, informed and thoughtful parents who might well ask, in the course of “taking your measure,” whether you have guns and where they are kept. Highly ironic that you say you might go so far as to do criminal background checks on anyone whose home your child might visit, and yet you have a cow over some other parent asking you a couple of pretty simple questions. Why would you need to run a background check? I’m sure your kids are heavily armed and could defend themselves if their friends’ parents turn out to be criminals, right?

  4. Dan Flowers says:

    BTW… I think my responses are being unfairly taken out of context. I have never said that unsecured guns are not a danger to children. They are obviously very dangerous. I am simply trying to point out that Jim’s idea of communication with parents about safe storage is only one part of a comprehensive safety solution. We need:

    Gun-owner safety education
    Safe-storage information and solutions
    Communication (as Jim points out)
    Education of ALL children about gun safety

    Education of children is equally important, and a parents’ responsibility. If any defensiveness is detected it is because of those parents who place 100% of the responsibility for their child’s safety on others. It is neither consistent with common sense or responsible parenting.

    • All of us have a responsibility to teach our child safety- from crossing the street to firearms. However, as we all know, not all parents do. So in my asking you, if you have firearms in the home and if they are safe and secure, I am verifying that you are a responsible parents. I wouldn’t want my kid spending time in a home supervised by an irresponsible parents, in particular an irresponsible parent who keeps firearms on the premises, and someone who reacts to that question in such an aggressive manner I would have to assume is too immature and living in too thick of a bubble to possibly be a responsible adult that I would trust with the health and safety of my child . A responsible parent would ask the question, a responsible parent would answer the question and maybe, to increase the safety skills and awareness of parents and children, would bring up the Eddie Eagle program or reassure the parent or even ask, “what about at your house?”. Yes, education is key. However, if I don’t ask, how do I know that my child is safe at your house? Assuming that a stranger is a responsible parent because their child has grown past infancy is a dangerous assumption. Yes, going and telling an adult, not touching the weapon, etc… is important for kids to know. I know that my child knows this, but I don’t know you well enough to know that you are a good, responsible parent or that your children know those rules. I’m not worried about my kid picking up a firearm because he won’t. I am worried that your child will or if a neighborhood kid joins them in play. In this way, firearms are like automobiles. You can follow all of the laws and rules and be operating your vehicle 100% safely. You still need to be aware and take account for the drivers who don’t follow the rules. You could still be t-boned by a drunk asshat at the next intersection. There is always the “other” as a variable. We often can’t control the “other” but we can make sure that we store our firearms and ammunition in a safe and secure manner and educate our kids and we need to stop assuming that others follow the rules and guidelines and we need to have this conversation and have it without a nasty, accusatory tone. That is what civilized people do. We recognize the variables we can control, to reduce risk, and we have a conversation.

  5. wellokaythen says:

    Wow. The word “gun” is like a mind-altering substance. Say the word to someone on either side and entire portions of the brain shut down.

    Two adults should be able to have a civilized discussion about their concerns about child safety. A little diplomacy and politeness ought to go a long way. On the question of gun safety, either side could act offensively to the other person or be offended by the other person. Clearly some people are easily offended at mere suggestion that guns could be dangerous for children. Others are easily offended at the mere suggestion that some people teach their kids gun safety better than other parents do. Try not to forget the larger goal in question, which is about child safety.

    How about this:

    If you want to know if the playdate house has secured guns in it, approach with “I” statements. Like, “I have this nightmare scenario in my head that my kid is going to find some gun lying around at someone’s house. I hate to pry, but could you tell me if you have any guns in your house, and if so, what do you do for safety?” This doesn’t mean you’re apologetic for being concerned, and it doesn’t mean you’re accusing someone of anything, just that you recognize that the question is coming from your own stuff.

    Meanwhile, if you’re offended or feel that the question violates your boundaries in some way, try to respond respectfully. Own your own stuff as well. If you think the concerned dad is asking out of ignorance, this could be a chance to clear the air. Explain your understanding about gun safety, how guns compare to (other) common household items, etc. If you feel like your house is very safe, explain why you feel that way.

    Theoretically, it could be that both parents are gunowners. Just because one dad is asking another about guns in his house doesn’t mean that one has guns and one doesn’t. Surely not all gunowners just assume that all other gunowners are responsible so they never wonder about gun safety at anyone else’s house.

    • Dan Flowers says:

      Wellokthen, I like your last comment except the part about not having a civilized discussion. I was rather under the impression we were. Hard to tell though with part of my brain shut down… 😉

  6. Matt McGuire says:

    The point is here, all due respect to you and your child, its none of your business. If I have a concern that the persons house that I am allowing my children to visit is somehow unsafe, that question should be resolved by me getting to know the person and finding out for myself whether or not I feel its a quality environment. The liberal ideology somehow relieves the parent of the responsibility of ensuring your childs safety. Rather than teach them about potential danger that they might encounter, you hide it from them, as Dan said, making it a taboo that only makes it more attractive opens the door for potential problems. Ultimately you cannot be over your childs shoulder 24/7 so you have to teach them and trust that you have done all you can to become the responsible human being you hope them to be. So many people trust their children with 25 thousand dollar automobiles that could kill dozens if handle incorrectly, but a firearm is somehow more dangerous? Please, the arrogance and obvious shirking of responsibility that this article promotes is ridiculous.

    • ” The liberal ideology somehow relieves the parent of the responsibility of ensuring your childs safety…” LOL!!! Oh my God, are you people for real?

      Talking to other parents whose homes my kid may visit IS part of taking responsibility for ensuring my child’s safety. Nothing at all was said about “hiding” the realities of guns from children as opposed to teaching them. My kid could be a complete prodigy with firearms for all you know – that still doesn’t mean the other family is ALSO responsible to the point where I have a comfort level with them, until I’ve talked to them and gotten to know them. THEIR kid might be prone to getting into the gun safe when the parents aren’t around, for all I know. Just because YOUR kid wouldn’t do that or you wouldn’t leave them unsupervised, doesn’t mean nobody’s would. Which is why I would bring it up. It’s not all about YOU, see? Or me avoiding responsibility. I’d be happy to answer any parent’s questions of this nature, and so should anyone be. It’s a sign that they give a crap where their kids go and what the environment will be like there. And somehow gun nuts manage to turn it around and call everyone else irresponsible parents for not having a houseful of guns that their kids are all trained how to use by the time they’re 5. Good grief.

  7. wellokaythen says:

    “Gun safety? Sure. All my guns have safeties on them.”

    I think if I had a child who was coming over for a playdate at your house I would be in my rights to ask what the firearms situation was in your house. You have an equal or greater right to feel offended by the question. You would be well within your rights to tell me to mind my own business, in which case I might feel it best that my child not go to your house on a playdate.

    That makes me think that some of the offended people just don’t want your kid to come over, and acting offended about your questions just makes a convenient excuse.

    Realistically, though, I hate confrontation or risking offending people, so I would be one of those parents who would wimp out. I’d probably make a weasel-worded compromise and blame someone else. “My wife is going through this thing where she’s paranoid about guns everywhere. I can’t believe she put me in this position. She’d never forgive me if I didn’t ask you this: Do you have any guns in your house?”

    Also realistically, you can’t always expect an honest answer. The right answer, even if it’s a lie, is that “of course all my guns are locked up and out of the reach of children.” People who are careless with guns at home never think that they’re careless. Very few irresponsible gun owners would ever admit to being irresponsible. They’d be far more likely to act offended than admit that they aren’t uptight about gun safety.

  8. Dan Flowers says:

    Ladydy and Daddy Files – Yes, I believe it is your responsibility to educate your children about ANYTHING that can hurt them whether or not you have a gun in your home. I don’t have a swimming pool or live in an area where it gets warm enough to swim outdoors except possibly one month a year. I don’t swim for recreation and I don’t like the water. I swim well enough to pass the tests I needed to pass in the military to do my job. Despite my uncomfortable feelings about water, I still took the time to get my kids swimming lessons from the time they were very young, because it is reasonable to expect they might be around a pool at someone else’s house, and it is an important survival skill. Even if that person has a fence around their pool, and even if I call and ask if they have a pool, I STILL WANT MY KID TO KNOW HOW TO SWIM. I don’t think that is unreasonable at all and neither would most people. The issue is that fact that people many who believe this is reasonable (or explain to their children not to drink anything they can’t identify, or not to play with knives or run with scissors, or play with matches) for some reason are utterly resistant to teaching their children anything about guns. If they have a bias against guns, they prefer to pretend they don’t exist and never discuss them other than horror stories and scare tactics. In doing so they accomplish either one of 2 things. They either create an image of the gun as a demonic evil thing to be feared and reviled; or, it becomes the forbidden fruit and object of secret symbolic desire to touch as an act of rebellion. Neither is a positive outcome. Rather than fear, I want to see parents teaching respect, and embracing the opportunity to teach a survival skill just like swimming. I also do not see swimming pool owners being attacked for their choices, as is quite common with those of us who choose to own firearms.

    The NRA has had the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program available to schools for years. It reaches about 18 million kids per year. This is way too few. The program could save many more lives if it were not so viciously opposed by people who are anti-gun and oppose the NRA based on their emotional and political bias. There is no pro-gun message to the program whatsoever, and it is solely focused on reducing accidents involving children; yet it has been opposed by thousands of people who consider themselves “good parents” around the nation. These are the parents who infuriate me because they are gambling with lives by refusing basic safety training. These are many of the same people who would happily violate the Constitution while claiming “Its for the children!”. Teach your kid to swim. Teach your kids about guns. That’s apples to apples.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I didn’t grow up in a house with guns, I’ve never owned one, and I probably don’t know as much about them as I ought to. I have to admit I probably have some self-righteous misconceptions about gun ownership, and I might not be the most informed source of information for my kids about guns.

      I’m thinking I might actually WANT my child to meet someone who is a highly responsible gun owner. That way my kid would get a more realistic view of guns than what they’ll get elsewhere. I’d teach my kid (if I had one) what I know about gun safety, but it would be good for my child to learn from someone who actually knows them more firsthand and can speak with some real authority about safety. (Maybe I’d come along, too, so I could learn a thing or two myself.)

      I’d be afraid if I kept my child away totally away from anyone who ever owned a gun that I’d make guns seem even more magical in their minds, because then the only images they’d get of firearms is TV and movies, and I don’t want that to be the only source.

      It would be great for my kids to see that having a gun means a lot of boring grown-up stuff like safety, responsibility, following proper procedure, putting things away in their proper places, locking everything up, reading and understanding the law, and cleaning your gun after every use. If they’re my kids, I’m sure anything that involves cleaning would immediately turn them off. Everything that means that a gun is most definitely NOT a kid’s toy. Bore them into thinking that owning a gun is weighted with responsibility, that it’s not just a point-and-click thing like the remote control.

  9. The point of asking the other parent isn’t that you haven’t talked to your kids about what to do if they find a gun. Even if you have thoroughly educated your children on that topic, you’re also worried about two other things: 1.) the best-educated kids still sometimes do dumb things when presented with the opportunity (that’s why they’re called kids and not miniature adults) and 2.) is the gun owner in the other house a responsible gun owner who takes basic safety precautions, or are they a wannabe cowboy who will make a fine news story when there’s a gun death in the home. The assumption that the question is being asked because the asking parent doesn’t trust the kid rather than the other parent is frankly risible and a straw man of the most blatant sort.

  10. It’s also a good way to find out if your neighbor is a fanatical gun nut, so you can teach HIS kid about the warning signs of a psychotic breakdown and how to identify escape routes.

  11. Life Lessons says:

    I applaud your article. Indee, you should be able to discuss this with all parents. 🙂


    Many of us grew-up in homes with lots of guns in many locations and never once harmed ourselves, our friends, or our property. It was never ok in my house to treat guns as anything less than guns. Properly handling of guns means: 1) Treat every gun like a loaded gun; 2) Know your site picture; and 3) Point your gun in a safe direction.

    Yes of course I play with guns. On a gun range with proper eye and ear protection and I follow all safety procedures.

    Please note that I have had many children in my home, I love it when my friends bring their children over and my house is for people of all ages. No, children can’t find or even reach my guns and I have never had a child even ask about them. (Though one child did try to play with a letter opener in an unsafe manner and I had to take it from him.)

    Please know that when it comes to guns there is plenty of bigotry on both sides. Rather than make blanket statements, just let each other know you want your children to be safe.

    Oh and be sure to add swimming pools and household chemicals to that danger list. Last I heard, swimming pools and household chemicals were the big accident killers of children.

  12. AnonymousDog says:

    What other dangerous things would you ask your kid’s friend’s parents about? Why are guns such a special; danger? Are accidental shootings involving children more common than other types of accidental injuries?

    Your focus on guns leads one to believe that it’s part of some agenda. In the back of my mind is the question: Would someone who is all interested about my possession of guns in the home really respect my privacy?

    • wellokaythen says:

      Guns that are not well-secured are special dangers, or they sure seem that way. Handguns are portable, unlike swimming pools. I’d compare them to power tools. If my child was coming over to your house and I know that you’ve been remodeling your house, I’d be curious if there are any power tools lying around.

      Of course I’d teach my child about safety, but I can’t just depend solely on my child’s own good sense to stay safe, especially not in a group of other kids. Surely all of us as children did things we were told were unsafe but we did them anyway. If teaching right and wrong was all it takes, then there’d be far fewer accidents and far fewer criminals.

  13. Dan: So all the parents who don’t teach their kids about guns are “irresponsible” and bad parents? Sorry, but that’s absolutely ridiculous. You raise your kids around guns. Good for you. But guess what? I consider it irresponsible to leave a gun on the table and tempt fate. I don’t even have to leave it on the table and tempt them to know they won’t touch it, because there won’t be one present in my house. I fail to see how raising my son in a home without an instrument made solely to kill people can be classified as irresponsible.

    No one is calling responsible gun owners bad parents for choosing a different way to raise kids, yet you fly off the handle and go that route with your judgmental crap about parents like myself? Try keeping your judgment and your guns to yourself. And don’t worry about my kid coming over, because anyone who responds to a responsible, common-sense question like “do you have guns in your house?” the way you did, is not someone I’d trust with my child.

    • I think Dan’s point is you have failed to give your kids any tools to deal with guns should they come across one outside your home. Part of educating them about firearms safety is telling them what to do should they find one or come into contact with one when you are not around. It would be similar to not telling your kids to not play with electrical outlets because you put safety covers on all the ones in your home. You are failing to provide them with mental tools to know what to do. I am a shooter and heavily involved in the firearms industry and I advocate for responsible storage, training for kids and adults alike, and I tell people to relate to their children if they come upon a situation involving a gun that is outside the a structured event with adult supervision or input then the best thing to do is don’t touch and remove themselves from the area.

      Instead of even bothering yourself with taking the time to tell your kids about guns, get them into a safety class, and provide them with this plan you are not exposing your kids to what is in the world and trying to keep them from being exposed to something you don’t like by only letting them play at gun free homes you are setting them up for potential failure. Would your kids know what to do if they found a gun discarded by a criminal in the park? Apparently not if you won’t even bring the topic up.

      The point about them getting a safety class is not about making them safe in handling a gun when you are not around but to take the fascination away from guns so they will be more likely to remove themselves from bad situations than stick around out of curiosity.

  14. *peace* of mind.

  15. Good article, Jim. I wouldn’t have really thought about asking other parents if they had guns. I kind of assume people we hang out with don’t have them, and, if they did, they would be super responsible.

    Aside from getting some piece of mind, the other benefit of speaking openly about gun safety would be to remind gun owners themselves to think about that stuff. I hate to drop a dime on my own dad (career military officer, Vietnam vet, Expert Marksman, Airborne Ranger, etc.), but he kept a .45 in his dresser drawer, with no safe, no locks, nothing. (Ammo was in the basement, but I suspect dad kept a full clip somewhere handy too.) Anyway, we kids weren’t supposed to know where it was, but of course we did. We went through everything. And of course, I showed dad’s pistol to a lot of my friends.

    One summer, we went out of town on vacation and came back to find that the house had been robbed. They had gotten in the same way that I used to break in when I forgot my key, they had stolen all my records, my electric guitar, my leather jacket, and my dad’s gun. In other words, it was clearly an inside job by someone who knew me. My parents thought it was one of my punk rock druggie friends and forbade me from hanging out with him.

    Years later, I found out that it was a kid from across the cul de sac who robbed us. A big football player with more than a couple screws loose who had always tried to be my buddy despite my constantly snubbing him. I hope like hell he never hurt anybody with that gun, but there’s really no way to know. I’d like to think that if people had spoken openly about gun safety in those days, though, my dad would have kept that pistol somewhere where I or my friends would never have had access to it.

  16. I grew up with a gun in my house and it was never an issue. The gun was kept in one room, bullets were kept in another, and both were out of reach for kids. When I was in the military, I slept with a gun under my pillow for three years. I shot my gun. At people. (Thankfully, I missed.)

    So I’m not out of touch with the idea of guns in general, or with the way they work or with the way responsible people keep kids safe around them. Saying that, I don’t get the defensive tone of Dan Flowers here. You think someone is uninformed about guns? Teach him. Someone is calling you to ask if you have a gun? Invite him over to show him where you keep your gun. Prove to him that your gun will make his kid safer (that is the point of you having a gun in the house, no?)

  17. Dan Flowers says:

    My comments were not directed at Jim personally. Kudos to you Jim for getting your kids trained. Maybe that would be a good topic for a follow-on article.

  18. Dan and Jim: I think you both make some very good points. As a parent, it is your responsibility to know what type of situation or home you are sending your children into (i.e. are there guns and are they stored safely – although how many parents ask the parents of a potential play date if they happen to have any pitbulls or potentially dangerous dogs at their home?). It is also your responsibility to teach your children about the dangers of this world, which include unsafe handling of a firearm. I do not think Dan is directing his comments towards you personally, Jim, but more towards parents, in general. Whether or not you are a gun owner, it is always a good idea to teach your children (and yourself) basic gun safety.

    • Not to completely derail the conversation, but I have to step in to bust the pit bull myth. Pit bull breeds are not inherently more dangerous or aggressive than any other dog. A chihuahua can severely injure a child, as can a golden retriever, as can a poodle, as can a pit bull, as can any mixed mutt. (You may even do better to worry about those toy breeds like chihuahuas, the kind kids want to pick up and hold because they are oh-so-cute and oh-so-small and yet can leave a kid in need of oh-so-many stitches.)

      Yes, it is wise to ask other parents if there is a dog in their household and ask after the dog’s size and temperament, and whether the dog is supervised or crated while the kids are playing. It’s also wise to teach your kids good doggie manners: Always ask the owner before approaching and petting a dog, let it sniff you first, don’t tug on its ears, whiskers or tail (and other gentle petting tips), don’t approach it while it’s eating, and don’t try to take a toy away from it. These are good precautions to take.

      I just urge parents to not automatically balk if one of their kids’ playmates lives with a pit or pit mix (or a Rottweiler, or a German Shepherd, or a Doberman) but rather goes further to ask about that specific dog’s behavior with children. Any of these so-called “aggressive” breeds can be, and often are, friendly family pets when raised properly. Just as you want to know that the playmate’s parent is a responsible gun owner, you want to know they are a responsible dog owner, too.

  19. Dan, I appreciate your comments. Honestly. But I’m not sure where you’re making some determinations on how I father my children:

    “It is not so much that I am offended by the question, as it is that I am truly offended that parents do not address the issue and do honest-to-goodness safety training with their children; and expect that it falls on someone else.”

    I never said that I haven’t dealt with teaching my children about firearms. In fact, I have. My cousin is a police officer and he has personally taught my kids, at length, about guns. They’ve fired them and have handled several different types of guns.

    My story is encouraging parents to simply be more open to talk with other parents about whether or not they have guns. I’m not going to assume that everyone who has a gun is storing it in the safe and proper manner you do. That, in my opinion, would be ignorant on my part. I also think it would be highly ignorant of me to think that – just because I have had my children trained in gun safety – that everyone else has (including those individuals who own guns). I also make it perfectly clear that my point isn’t about preaching to others about a host of other things – which, candidly – I feel as though you are doing to me.

    I’m simply trying to encourage parents to talk. Listen. Learn. And not assume. I’m not sure what in all of that leads you to call me irresponsible.

    I’m sorry I didn’t address the “and teach your kids about gun safety” part of this article. I think that is a good point. But it’s still not the main point of my article.

    Thank you for taking time to read and share your thoughts.

  20. Dan Flowers says:

    Robert Duffer – It is not so much that I am offended by the question, as it is that I am truly offended that parents do not address the issue and do honest-to-goodness safety training with their children; and expect that it falls on someone else. In the case of firearms, I think it is a shared responsibility. If I did not believe in responsible storage, I would not own a safe. I also know however, that I could leave a handgun in the middle of my kitchen table and neither of my children would any more touch it than grab a live rattlesnake. It is not because they are deathly afraid; it is because they know what it is, what it does and there is absolutely no mystery to it. It is not a “forbidden fruit”. On range days, and with my permission, they can handle that firearm as safely as any adult. I guess my annoyance comes from other parents NOT teaching their children the same way. It really is very important. I feel if more parents took the time to educate themselves, (prior to educating their children) then both the level of firearms paranoia, and more importantly, the number of firearms accidents involving children could be radically reduced. Phobia and ignorance about firearms are the real killers.

    • Todd Nielsen says:

      Dan Flowers is right! As we all know as parents education takes the fear and misunderstanding away from just about everything. I for one am not afraid to ask parents how they feel about guns or or any other beliefs me or my wife have. If we dont like the responses then our children dont play together. Its called being a parent not making nice with everyone. Bottom line is my childrens safety is my #1 priority.

  21. Dan Flowers says:

    If you called my house to find out, you would receive the following response:

    “Yes, there are several firearms in my house. I will make sure that they are safely secured in my gun-safe before your child arrives now that I know that you are an irresponsible parent. Why irresponsible? Because their are 300 million guns in America and they are found in more than 50% of all households. A responsible parent, knowing the practical inevitability of their child coming into contact with a firearm at some point would make the effort to educate first themselves and then their children about gun safety and the appropriate actions to take if they should ever find a gun. (Stop, don’t touch, go tell an adult or leave if another child handles it). If you had been a responsible parent and taught these things, you would not have to be calling me now in fear for your child’s actions. Thank you for letting me know that you and your child are ignorant about basic safety and that I need to protect you from yourselves. I will certainly oblige to the best of my ability. Would you like to come over for a gun safety class sometime? No? Then I am not sure that you or your child will be welcome in my home after this one courtesy visit since you obviously are not as serious about your child’s safety as you seem to think you are. How can I trust that you have taught little Johnny not to play with knives, drink unknown liquids or lean out of windows? No, I’m sorry. On second thought, maybe your child should not come over at all.”

    • Despite the number of guns “found” in American homes, Dan, does not in any way mean that they are as commonly found as knives (in every kitchen and assessable by anyone), unknown liquids (under the sink, the laundry area, even the fridge), or windows (in 100% of homes, multiple times over). You keep your gun in a gun safe because of the potential for it being mishandled, presumably. Accidents with the aforementioned objects typically are not as instantaneously lethal as a gun. I would guess that every parent has told their child not to touch something and the child has touched it, out of curiosity, familiarity, whatever the case may be, regardless of what safety lectures they’ve gotten. Knowing that there is an increased risk, however improbable, can better prepare the child. If my kid was never around a dog and he was going to play at a friend’s house with a dog, I would address it with him. I would already trust the other parent because I’m considering letting him go there in the first place, regardless of gun/dog ownership. I trust the gun/dog is secure. I would trust the gun/dog is ok with kids (in this case the analogy of the dog is the kid in question–is he ok with other kids or is he likely to get into some shit). But I would be assured by asking.
      You are clearly offended by the question.

    • Wow, this is exactly the defensive knee-jerk, ‘blame the responsible parent for looking out for their kid’, reaction I would expect. If your neighbors had a pool without a fence, could we claim you to be the irresponsible one for not teaching your 4 year old to swim if they got near it and drowned? No, you would say that family should have had a fence – I believe there are laws about THAT. They could go to jail for neglect. If you can’t handle a rational adult conversation about gun safety in your home, I wouldn’t want my children there anyway. Just like the peanut allergy example – parents have a responsibility to ask tough questions sometimes in the best interest of the child.

    • Wow, someone is quite defensive. But my first thought was, why should you have to go around your house making sure all your guns are put away in the first place, Dan? The first rule of guns when you have kids is that you should NOT let them just lie about. They should be inaccessible to children when those children are not able to be supervised by a responsible adult. My children are not even able to access their BB guns by themselves.

      And yes, I have talked about guns with the parents of my children’s friends. Never have I been given the type of reaction that I shouldn’t ask. My children have been educated in gun safety and we often shoot for sport. I would be more worried about YOUR child rather than mine if a gun were left lying out. We also wouldn’t need your “safety lesson.” It is obvious that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and I would probably cancel the visit if you gave me that response.

      • Seriously. I thought I’d already seen the outer limits of the self centered douchebaggery exhibited by gun nuts (and to be clear, I do NOT consider all gun owners to be gun nuts – just people like Dan here). But this takes the cake.

        Even if my kids have already been taught about gun safety, that doesn’t mean I trust that yours have been taught properly. In fact, a former neighbor of mine’s young on had a friend over, and the FRIEND was shot and killed by the 13 year old, with his stepfather’s gun. It apparently was not stored somewhere that the kid couldn’t get hold of it and “show it off” to his friend. For anyone to get defensive simply because a parent ASKS whether you have guns and where they are kept, to get an idea of the level of responsibility being exercised in YOUR home, speaks volumes.

        And not only to get defensive but to then turn the blame around on the party doing the asking and call them an “irresponsible parent”… well that’s just completely beyond the pale. I’m in favor of kids being taught gun safety, but it is not an *expectation.* If I have guns in my home it is MY responsibility to make sure they are not left out where kids – anyone’s kids – can get them, I would welcome any parent’s questions about the quality of my home environment – it shows me they give a crap about the kid and they are thinking of their child, not worrying whether it offends ME. This is not about YOU, it’s about a parent wanting to establish a comfort level about their kid being in your home,

        I would never allow a child in your house if I asked a question like this and received such a response, whether my kid has had gun safety training or not. How much is the NRA paying you to spew this crap? Seriously, my jaw is on the floor that anyone would answer such a question this way.

  22. Thank you for covering this! I try to share the “Just Ask” idea as much as I can.
    Their site is: http://www.cpyv.org/?page_id=74
    My feeling is that if we can’t talk about this than we aren’t civilized enough to have these weapons.
    It’s a discussion that must happen considering that an estimated half of legal firearm owners do not practice basic safety & secure storage.


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