Friday, June 20, 2014

Asking Saves Kids

In lieu of my usual Weekend Reading post, I want to write a special post in honor of National ASK Day, which is tomorrow (June 21).

ASK stands for Asking Saves Kids, and the purpose of the day is to raise awareness about the importance of asking whether there are any unsecured guns in a friend's house before you send your child over to play.

People who follow me on Twitter may remember that I recently had to ask this very question. Pumpkin was invited for her first sleepover, with a friend from school. I have chatted with the friend's mother (and think she's great), but we certainly don't know the family well enough to know whether or not they have any guns in their house.

Several people responded to my tweet about having to ask about guns, wondering if I would write a post sharing how I asked. National ASK Day seemed like the perfect time to do just that!

First of all, let me make something clear: I am not a huge fan of guns, but I do not have a problem with people who are responsible gun owners. Actually, John Scalzi's recent post fairly accurately captures my feelings about guns and gun owners: I have no problem with people who enjoy using guns responsibly, but I am seriously creeped out by people for whom guns seem to have a fetish status.

I am not asking about guns to make sure that there are no guns in the houses where my daughters play. I am asking to make sure that any guns that are present are properly secured.

Still, given the contentiousness around guns in America, it is definitely an awkward question to ask. Even if there were no debates about gun regulations, the conversation would be awkward, because it feels a bit like you're asking the other parent whether or not they are a good parent.

But, as the ASK campaign says: awkward conversations are part of parenting.

Here is how I asked:

We were arranging the sleepover via email, so I simply added the following text to the email in which I confirmed the date the other family had suggested would work for us:

"Final thing- we have a few safety things we always check before we let [Pumpkin] go to someone's house without us. I already saw that you don't have a pool and that your dog is not at all dangerous, so the only other thing to ask is whether you have any guns in the home, and if so, if they're locked up. "

I find the question less awkward if I group it with other safety concerns. I won't pretend this was an easy email to write. I think I stared at the text for 15 minutes before I sent it. I feel better having asked, though, and Pumpkin's friend's mom was not at all offended by the question. They do not have guns - so I have yet to see how this question is received by a gun owner.

Do any gun owners in my readership want to weigh in with whether or not they'd find that question offensive or off-putting? Have any of you had to ask this question yet? If so, how did you do it?


  1. I'm not currently but I grew up among responsible gun owners as I mentioned on Twitter and it's not inconceivable that I would someday own one. From that POV, I think that's a perfectly fine question, with or without the other items. I would even go so far as to ask HOW they are secured instead of whether they are, now that I am more aware of how irresponsible gun owners can be, what I think is secure (all guns unloaded, locked up without any way for kids to get to it, ammo separately locked up) is not what other people define as safe. But when you get a no to the first question, obviously you're in the clear.

    1. I honestly never thought that phrasing the question as "how" rather than "if" would be less offensive but it does create a presumption they're responsible enough gun owners to secure them.

      In any case, I ran across this post and thought you'd appreciate it:

  2. Yes, I agree with asking "how are they locked up" instead of "if". Not only is the answer telling, but it also removes the "are you a good parent" implication because you present the question as if you assume that they take some precaution. We have guns. I think it's a reasonable question.

  3. Good for you! I will say though, it kind of creeps me out that the question even needs to be thought of. I don't think it would cross our minds to ask, but that's probably due to being in a different country.

  4. I am going to come across as totally judgmental here, but someone having guns in the house would probably be a deal-breaker regarding our kids' playdates. As Alyssa says, it creeps me out that the question even has to come up. I don't understand why it's so important to make sure not to hurt the feelings of parents who are gun owners. I would be just as unlikely to have my kids play at houses with vicious dogs. People don't organize playdates for all sorts of reasons, I am sure my accent makes me a persona non grata with many parents who never left the state, and my accent has no ability whatsoever to cause bodily harm to their kids.

  5. Anonymous3:36 PM

    o/t Both my kids are singing songs from Frozen now. They play the soundtrack at both daycamp and at daycare. My almost-two year old crooning "Let it go" is adorable. (DC1 prefers "Let's build a snowman.")

    1. Pumpkin had her first sleepover Saturday night, so Petunia got to watch some movies. We watched Brave and Tangled. Petunia says she loves all of the princess movies she's seen (Cinderella, Frozen, Brave, and Tangled). Brave is my favorite of the bunch, I think.

    2. Anonymous12:30 PM

      DC1 liked Brave better than Frozen. I haven't seen either (eventually they'll make it up our netflix queue), but after reading so much Medieval POC, I know I will cringe to see all that whiteness, even if animated movies are doing a better job with gender.

  6. For xykademiqz: I guess the point is that if guns in the home are a dealbreaker for a playdate than the question still has to be asked in order to know. A vicious dog is a much more in-you-face type of threat.

    To be honest, this has never crossed my mind. I am not in the US, so I am not sure how much that factors in. I actually assume that no one who I associate with owns a gun, as I've never had any evidence to the contrary, but I can't say I know this for a fact. Anyhow, thanks for the food for thought on this topic.

  7. We have guns in the house and I wouldn't be the least bit offended if someone asked me if we had a gun and how it was secured (which I agree is the better question than 'if' it was secured). I really don't like guns myself and would rather NOT have them, but they are my husbands and he was raised with guns. They are all under triple lock which I am informed (by my husband) is the standard for safety - trigger lock, case lock, safe lock.

    I've never been asked and it has never occurred to me to ask (maybe because we are not in the US?). I would probably be impressed by the parent's due diligence in asking.

    How did the first sleepover go?

  8. I was one of the Twitter folks who asked you to post this, so thank you SO MUCH for doing so! I like putting it among other safety-type questions, and I agree with the other commenters that "and if so, how they're secured/locked up" is a good way to frame the question without sounding judgmental (or as non-judgmental as possible in this situation).

    I also recall reading another parent's description of the first time s/he had to have this conversation, and s/he started it off with admitting, "and this is really awkward for me but I have to ask..." which I thought was another good way to soften the tone of the conversation somewhat.

    Thanks again!

  9. No guns but I have a pool and certainly would not be offended if someone asked me about how that was secured (fence with gate that is almost impossible for small children to open, cover kept on the pool with key that is also kept inaccessible to children).

    I'm also curious if you've talked to *Pumpkin* about guns. My husband freaked me out with a story the other day about him and a friend back when they were growing up finding one of the friend's dad's guns and taking it out. Because my husband had learned about guns (this is Texas) he stopped and asked to check if it was loaded. It was. They put it away. They weren't much older than my oldest son now.

    1. Yes, we have started talking to Pumpkin about this- and have been for about a year. Our message to her is that if she sees a gun, she should leave the area right away and go find a grown up.

      You know, as much as one segment of our population says that talking about same-sex marriage with kids is hard, this was a FAR harder conversation. Actually, I have a post coming up about all the hard conversations we've been having lately. I have to say, the same-sex marriage one was perhaps the easiest of the bunch. But I fully understand that is because same-sex marriage does not present a problem in the belief system in which our kids are being raised.

      Did I just derail in my own comments section?

    2. Anonymous12:27 PM

      After some thought on the matter, DC1 thinks he's probably going to end up marrying a girl if he gets married at all, which he hopes he does but is not sure he will find someone. It's definitely one of the easier conversations, especially since these days there are same-sex couples out in the open with kids so it's something that doesn't seem all that out of the ordinary. Even where we live the sentiment against gay marriage has been changing along with the rest of the country.

      Re: guns, we could never visit my husband's family if we had a no gun rule. But FIL does keep them in a locked safe in a locked room (it used to be a locked safe in a locked shed, but when the kids moved out he took over a bedroom for his hunting room).

    3. Late reply...hard conversations. Hah. Where babies come from? Not difficult. Menstruation/contraception/sexual pleasure? Not difficult. Lesbian rabbi having baby? Not difficult. Rabbi's husband pregnant? (he's trans) Not difficult.

      Difficult: Why did my first mother place me for adoption? Will I ever have to choose between the two of you? I feel like i really belong with my biological family more than with you and Daddy.

  10. Angie8:41 AM

    Laura - that is such a great point!

  11. Anonymous2:06 PM

    Responsible gun owners will not be offended at your inquiry. Full stop.
    Honestly, I rarely make absolute statements but given my above sentence, I'm now pondering the next thought: Responsible parents will not be offended at a parent's inquiry regarding safety. I mean, I'm trying to imagine a situation where if I asked a fellow parent about their safety guidelines before I sent my child over for a playdate/sleepover/whatever, and they were offended, would I be trusting them to supervise my child? Probably not. Wouldn't matter whether it was guns, a pool, trampoline, whatever.
    But I digress...

    I think starting the query as a general safety query is a good strategy. While unsecured guns are certainly a safety hazard, there are plenty of other potential safety issues to not make assumptions about. Guns, pools, and pets are fairly obvious, but the less obvious are still valid, such as chemical storage, woodworking tools, garden implements, etc.


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