Protecting Kids From Gun Accidents with One Simple Question
“My child has been so excited to come over to play today, thank you again for the invitation! By the way, is there an unlocked gun in the house?”
It’s not exactly the easiest question to ask the parent or caregiver who hosts your child for a play date, child care, or even during a family visit. Try saying it out loud, or imagine being asked that same question. It feels a little odd, even uncomfortable maybe. We’ll ask friends and neighbors just about anything; from what school they chose for their child to where they bought their new lawn mower, but asking a question about firearms in the house is the five seconds it takes to know that your child is playing in a gun-safe environment. Five seconds of discomfort for you, five seconds of discomfort for the other parent, and it’s like ripping off a band-aid. You’ve asked, they’ve answered and you can leave your child to play: happy, healthy, and alive; knowing that they won’t stumble upon an unlocked gun and the tempting Pandora’s Box that a discovered weapon can be for curious children.
In America, one out of three homes with children has a gun, and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun.
As parents, we teach our kids to buckle their seat belts, to wear bike helmets, and to stay away from strangers. If we’re really thorough, we teach our kids about gun safety, or at the very least caution them never to handle a weapon. Unfortunately, it’s simply not enough to talk with your children about gun safety – studies have shown that even children who have learned about gun safety will often still pick up a weapon that is in front of them, often leading to gun accidents that cause injury or death.
Every year, nearly 3000 children and teens die from gunfire, and nearly 14,000 are injured. 80% of unintentional firearm deaths of kids under the age of 15 occur in a home environment.
School is out for your kids (or will be soon) and the summer season has begun – whether you work full time or are able to be at home with your children, chances are they are going to be spending more time with friends and family this summer, more time away from home. So how do you ask another parent about unlocked guns in their home? This question can be somewhat awkward, so we’ve pulled together a few tips and resources to help make what should be a routine question easier to ask:
Present the question as a safety issue and not a gun ownership issue: You’re not asking if your child’s friend’s parents are members of the NRA or if they hunt or what their thoughts are on gun ownership. This isn’t a political discussion, it’s a safety discussion. The truth is, all parents want their child(ren) to be safe and this simple question has the power to save a child’s life.
Mention a recent news story involving an unlocked gun in a home as a segue: Starting the conversation with something like: “Did you read about the boy who found his father’s unlocked gun?” again keeps the focus on the issue of safety and the fact that kids are curious.
Introduce National ASK Day: National ASK Day is June 21st. The ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign encourages parents to ASK if there is an unlocked gun in the homes where their children play. Simply admitting that this is a difficult (but important) question for you to ask is an honest approach and could also be a learning opportunity for the other parent. Explaining what National ASK Day is allows you to share this powerful information with another family while also asking the question that will put your mind at ease while your child plays.
For more information about National ASK Day and gun safety visit:
Asking Saves Kids
For more than a decade, the ASK Campaign has partnered with over 400 grassroots organizations to spread its message in neighborhoods nationwide. The ASK Campaign is a collaboration between the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics who has promoted the ASK message to its 62,000 members across the country. The ASK Campaign has successfully inspired 19 million households to ask if there are guns where their children play.