Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Asked - Do You? (about guns at home)

From Washington Ceasefire:

ASKing-Saves-Kids-472x1024.jpgAsking Saves Kids (ASK) - Washington is a public safety education campaign aimed at encouraging inquiry by parents and neighbors about guns in homes where their children play. Our goal is to persuade parents that this conversation—to ensure that their kids play in a gun safe environment—is an essential parental responsibility.

Despite the very real dangers of guns in proximity to children, pro-active dialogue is necessary due to the often delicate nature of any conversation in this country involving guns. Thus, this effort does not interfere with nor infringe upon anyone’s right to legally possess a gun, but normalizes parent responsibility to ask and make an informed decision that where their children play is safe.

The conversation is worth the effort given that ten children a day in this country under the age of 18 are killed or injured in the home with a gun. An estimated 40% of homes in the US (and in Washington State) have guns. A recent study by King County Public Health found there are at least 5,000 homes in the county with children and unlocked guns.

Our strategy in changing parental behavior is: 1) to highlight those instances where a gun in the home resulted in a tragedy involving a child, and 2) to impress upon parents that ensuring their child’s safety trumps any inconvenience or discomfort in neighbor to neighbor conversation. Central to the ASK program is educating and supporting parents in making the most tactful outreach possible to minimize awkwardness and maintain neighborly relationships.


I did this since the time my children were small. It's not the easiest of conversations but I would just ask parents is they had guns in their home.

I only got one yes and I said I had no judgments about gun ownership (these people had antique guns but they did fire them) but could we have the kids play at my house or at a playground. They were fine with it.  (If they said they had secured guns, I would probably have asked more questions.) 



The point is I have now raised two sons. I know how curious kids are at ALL ages. 

 I did not want the phone call that said my child had killed another child or that my son was dead because of another child with a gun (which would be worse, I don't know).

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I do ask before my kids go and play at a new friend's house, if there are guns, and, I feel like I have to apologize because I am coming off as some kind of strident nut job. But, I just want to keep my kids safe. I wish this issue got more attention, because then when I ask, I would not seem like such a freaky weirdo. I respect people's rights to own firearms, I just don't want my kids around them, even if they are owned by completely responsible law enforcement officer, because when a gun goes off, it doesn't matter who owned it.
-I ask

Anonymous said...

I don't think parents ask. Two kids now in middle school and I've always been dreading having to answer and explain that the guns in our house are disassembled, very securely locked, and safe is hidden from our own children who have both had gun safety training. But alas, in 13 years since playdates started, I've never had to answer any questions. No one has ever asked.

I have specifically told our children never to mention it, not because I want to keep it a secret, but because guns are not toys and should be of no interest to the kids. It should't be considered "cool" or noteworthy that we have any.

- unloaded and locked

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I feel like with parents like Melissa and "I ask" around, I feel like our house would now be "off limits" even with all of the precautions we take. As Melissa and "I ask" implied, it doesn't matter what the conditions are, if the guns are buried 6 feet underground in a safe with a key that is kept in an off site safety deposit box, it wouldn't matter. Very sad for my kids if all parents felt this way.

I do want to remind people that it is important to not just ask if there are guns in the house, but when they are used, where they are kept, where ammunition is kept, who has had gun safety training in the house, etc. Otherwise it would be no different than not letting your child go to a house that has dogs since that dog could be a pit bull and pit bulls are dangerous.

I want to add, I do not like guns and wish we didn't have them in our house, but I know (I insist!) that our house is completely safe.

-unloaded and locked

Melissa Westbrook said...

Absolutely. If you, as a parent, ask and feel satisfied with answers, then you've done your job.

Yes, about dogs, swimming pools, all of it.

Anonymous said...

I do ask (though I have gotten lax about it -this is a good reminder), and houses with guns are off limits for my kids. No disrespect to you, unlocked. I grew up in a house with guns, disassembled and in gun safes, and even so or because of that I just don't feel safe sending my kids to one. My kids have a friend who can't come to our house because we have peanut butter in it, no matter how thoroughly I clean, and I respect that parent's choice. I wish parents with guns would be a little more up front about it, because it does matter to me, but I understand and agree with not thinking little kids should have more information to get interested in them. I think sometimes it's kept quiet because of stigma, though.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

As a parent I have asked about guns, video games, TV watching, movie ratings, swimming pools, dogs, etc. The question about the guns was just part of a longer conversation. It was a bit easier when the kids were smaller because we went to a Waldorf school and the parents came up with a list of standards for playdates with classmates. It made it so much easier to be on the same page as the other parents.

HP

Anonymous said...

Our house also has locked, unloaded firearms with a small amount of ammunition locked separately. When my kid was younger, I actually made a point of telling the parents of his regular play date friends who didn't ask, so that they would know. I think only one person asked, and I told two or three.

My kid knows to not mention it to anyone for two reasons. One is to avoid stigma and the other is to keep other kids from the temptation of harassing him to show where they're locked up, etc.

I can understand the concerns of the parents who don't want their kids at our house - and it's not a problem, parks are great. But you would be amazed at the percent of kids from non-gun owning homes who will "open up" on car rides, etc. (no guns in our car, so everyone is comfortable with rides) with their thoughts on how cool guns are, how we should have a loaded one in the car or under the bed. Lots of bravado from lack of real knowledge and exposure to our general culture. Your children need real knowledge as they get older, because guns are out there.

Safety First