I have a question for you. Well, first I have a statement: we own guns. Like, more than one. JB is an avid shooter and let’s just say when the zombies come we are totally prepared as far as weaponry is considered.

Every gun we own is stored in a safe. One safe is of the large standup variety and it has a bank-vault type lock, the other safe involves typing a code into a keypad type thing. Kidproof.

So here’s what I’m wondering: now that Riley’s old enough to start having school friends over, is our gun ownership (and storage details) something I should be responsible for bringing up with their parents prior to any sort of playdate? In my mind I’ve thought of this subject sort of like a food allergy—in that if your visiting kid has one, I expect you to approach me ahead of time with your concerns and requirements—but I wonder if I’m off base with that.

What do you think?


130 Responses to “Friendships and firepower”

  1. Kelly on January 8th, 2012 9:17 pm

    Maybe it’s because I’m in Texas, but most parents here (and the pediatrician, daycare centers, and everyone else) ask if you have guns and how they are stored before you’d ever have to decide whether to tell them or not. I don’t think it’s something you should disclose, necessarily. Chances are people you know well enough that they are sending you their children know that you might be the outdoors/shooting types.

  2. Melissa on January 9th, 2012 9:14 am

    I think for me, if your guns are locked up, and the kids shouldn’t/wouldn’t even know they are there, I’m ok with you not mentioning it. But if there’s a possibility that your kid might tell my kid you have guns, or that my kid might see the safes and be all “what’s in there?” – “guns!” and then came home to tell me..I’d have a problem with that. And in that case I’d want to know..but I might also say it’s my responsibility to ask. Wow, I almost committed to something there. Sorry.

  3. Jo on January 9th, 2012 9:44 am

    I’m not sure what I will do. It’s pretty easy to explain to kids about the safety issues associated with knives, slippery stairs, showers, even driving. My kids see them every day and we talk about it all the time- “Hey, you need to be really quiet just now cause mommy needs to pay extra close attention to driving.” Or whatever. But we don’t have guns. Even toys. Somehow the kids still know to make pretend shooting noises and point their fingers (yeah, especially the boy). Who is 2. My point is- thank you. It’s a lot to think about. But thank you.

  4. Susie on January 9th, 2012 10:05 am

    This is SUCH a fascinating discussion! I’m generally pro-gun-ownership and my husband and I recently began an on-going discussion about purchasing a gun for our home. We also have a 21-month old son. It would never have occurred to me to ask another family if they have guns in their home. Or knives, or prescription drugs, or rat poison, or a pool, or…sheesh, any one of dozens of dangerous things. Someone mentioned trampolines in another comment, so I checked the statistics: the Consumer Product Safety Commission says that in 2008, approximately 100,000 people, mostly kids, were injured on trampolines. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against home use of trampolines. And that’s just ONE thing that COULD be dangerous to my kid. Personally, I think the take-away here is that more information is better. When my son is old enough to visit other kids’ homes, I hope I will remember this discussion and make a sincere effort to get more information — meet the other kid, meet the parents, get a sense of who they are, maybe even insist on visiting the home, briefly, before leaving my kid there. And if I have any concerns, yes, I will probably ask: do you have *any weapons* in your home? if so, how are they stored? do you always supervise the kids on the trampoline/in the pool/on their bikes? I suppose this could sound a little controlling or type-A-ish, but I don’t care — if it protects my kid even a little bit more, I’m fine with whatever label anyone wants to put on that.

    And Linda, as always, you rock for starting the conversation — thank you!

  5. Matthew on January 9th, 2012 10:26 am

    It’s up to the visiting child’s parents to ask. I’m not going to approach them with a laundry list of things that I might have in my house that could be deemed unsafe, ie. NyQuil, Internet, Unset V-Chip, etc. Who are these people sending their kids over to parents houses that they don’t know anyway? Is this a result of the internet generation? Are we so socially inept that we allow our children to visit homes of people that we’re too shy to get to know? Maybe we could friend them on Facebook and get to know them by reading posts on their wall . . . sheesh!

  6. laziza on January 9th, 2012 10:30 am

    I think it’s up to the visiting parents to ask. I also think it’s up to them to teach their child what to do if they’re ever faced with the possibility of accessing a gun. (That’s one point where I do agree with Amanda and others – no such thing as “kid-proof,” only “kid-resistant.”) We have a three-year-old who already knows the two steps to follow if he ever sees a gun in the wild: 1) Don’t touch it and 2) tell a grown-up. I wouldn’t think you should “disclose” this pre-emptively anymore than you should disclose you have knives or prescription medications in the house.

  7. Linda on January 9th, 2012 10:31 am

    Matthew: it doesn’t seem that modern/unusual to me. Your kid makes friends with another kid at school and they want to hang out — doesn’t mean you know their parents. We recently hung out with Riley’s BFF’s parents for the first time during a playdate at our house … we never had an opportunity to talk with them before. Is that really so odd?

  8. Richard H. on January 9th, 2012 11:25 am

    It is so refreshing to see such a long discussion thread full of reasoned and friendly responses from people with a fascinating range of experiences and opinions. I think it really points to the great blog you have Linda. I consistently find you to be one of the most authentic voices on the web. Keep being awesome!

  9. Amy on January 9th, 2012 11:30 am

    I think you definately tell the parents. We have three antique guns with no ammo and we have told parents and have also been asked by one parent whose child has been to your home. I have asked parents at homes where my children have played as well. It’s better to tell them so they can have dialogue with their kids. I wouldnt want to find out from my kids about the “gun cabinet” at so and so’s house if I didnt know about it beforehand.

  10. Rachel on January 9th, 2012 11:31 am

    I don’t think it is at all unusual not to know your kids’ friends’ parents. Heck, when I was a kid, I hardly knew my friends’ parents.

    You seem like the kind of person who would be conscientious about keeping the safes locked appropriately, but I’d still want to talk gun and bullet safety with my kids before sending them over to play on the very off chance that one time the safe was accidentally not locked, or somehow the kids got it open. If you’re in an area with low gun ownership, where parents are unlikely to think that you would have guns, I think it would be nice to let parents of playmates know, but I don’t think you have an obligation to do so.

  11. Em on January 9th, 2012 12:12 pm

    Wow, this is interesting. I have so much to learn before my 7-month-old starts having playdates! I live in Wisconsin, but do not come from a hunting family so I am not used to being around guns. Personally, the thing that scares me more than properly-stored hunting weapons is that now it is legal to carry a concealed weapon – AND you barely need any training to do so. I don’t know how many untrained people are carrying weapons, but they sure have made it easy to do in this state.

    That said, however, it seems to me that if parents are concerned, they should ask. I definitely will be when the time comes.

    (Also – I don’t think it is weird that your child would play with kids from families you don’t know. My parents didn’t know all of my friends’ parents when I was growing up.)

  12. Em on January 9th, 2012 12:16 pm

    Oh, I also meant to say that I think it is important for parents to teach their children about gun safety, and what to do if they seen a weapon. I know this is not the same thing, but I have a severe peanut allergy, and when I was growing up I knew that peanuts were off limits. I wouldn’t go near them. I think kids can be taught the same thing about anything else that might put them in danger.

  13. Sonja on January 9th, 2012 1:42 pm

    Interesting topic. I’m glad you’re bringing it up because we are gun owners as well. We just have a six month old, and we keep a loaded gun in the house, not locked up (for safety…you wont’ have time to unlock your cabinet and load a gun if someone has broken into your home.) But I guess at some point I’ll have to figure out what to do for the safety of my own child – and also what to tell his friends’ parents when he gets older. Also, I live in Seattle, maybe there are more gun owners here than we think! :)

  14. Anonymous on January 9th, 2012 4:59 pm

    Would *definitely* want to know ahead of time about guns in the house, just as much as much as I’d want to know if anyone in the house had a criminal record, was a drug addict, alcoholic or sexual predator. Probably a lot more common that someone in the house is one of the above than a gun owner. Alcohol and drugs would impair one’s judgment in supervising my child(ren). It’s funny how employers will do a background check on employees before hiring, but parents would never think to do this before sending their child on a play date at a friend’s house.

    Which is why we have a no play date at friend’s policy, period. You just *never* know what people do in their own homes. I specifically remember going over to a friend’s house as a child (seemingly wholesome family, prominent dentist father). My parents knew the parents well, yet the father walked around his house butt-naked in front of us girls on the play date. You would never have suspected this 
    by knowing him.

    Seriously, you just never truly know people. 

    Also, the bathtub accident comparison is a little misleading. Doubtful that a bathtub accident will lead to death (unless it’s a completely unsupervised drowning). An accidental gunshot to a child’s head? Probably going to be deadly. 

    Why not keep the guns in storage off site just to be safe?

  15. bj on January 9th, 2012 5:20 pm

    I would want to know, and I wouldn’t think to ask. Your post is a reminder that I should. I do that it’s an obligation to ask, but, that depending on your audience you might want to initiate the subject — potentially to ask questions about how their guns are stored.

    I would not want anyone to bring a gun to my house. I don’t think it is an issue — but how would I make that clear without asking everyone?

  16. Linda on January 9th, 2012 5:32 pm

    I respect your opinion, Anonymous, but it sure seems extreme to me to never let your kids go to someone else’s house. Or to run a background check on their parents. I am as protective of my kids as any mom, but I would never want to live my life feeling that much suspicion about every person they come in contact with.

  17. Anonymous on January 9th, 2012 6:00 pm

    Never said I would never let my kids go to a friend’s house. Just said I won’t let them go to a friend’s house without me or my husband there until they’re old enough to protect themselves. Their friends can always come over to our house and they do.

    Would much rather run the risk of being labeled overprotective or too suspicious than to have to provide counseling for my child who has an unfortunate run-in with someone’s pervy dad (happened to my 6yo son’s close friend recently on a play date). It’s so much more common than you’d probably think. So are drugs and alcohol abuse in the home. I think even  more so than gun ownership.

    Again, I’ll run the risk of the overprotective, cynical label over naïveté any day when it involves my children.

  18. Brigid on January 9th, 2012 7:00 pm

    When I was in third grade a classmate was shot and killed in front of his house because the other child thought they had a toy. In high school a peer thought he had unloaded a gun, but hadn’t cleared the chamber. He accidentally shot one of my lifelong friends, then shot himself out of despair. Both boys died.
    As a babysitter I once found a gun (no idea if it was loaded because I didn’t touch it and wouldn’t have had any idea anyway) in a drawer while looking for a band aid in the master bathroom.
    As a parent, I will admit I forget to ask. Thanks for sharing this. It will help me to remember that it is my job as a parent to ask the question even if it makes me/the situation uncomfortable. And I will be having another conversation with my kids tomorrow about gun safety – which to me means don’t touch any gun that might even remotely be real.
    I would appreciate you telling me that your guns are safely locked up.

  19. Caroline on January 11th, 2012 4:12 am

    Hello, I’m a long time reader and I’ve always enjoyed your blog and your honesty on various topics. I just wanted to share my husband’s experience with family guns. When my husband was young, his father had guns, also locked in supposedly very child-proof safes. Well, my husband was a very smart, very obsessive, and very disciplined little kid, and he tried every single combination on that code lock until he cracked the code (as he describes it to me, “well, there were only X thousand possibilities.” He also figured out the mechanism on the secondary lock that was supposed to make it child-proof. He and his friends would then take the guns and play with them every day, and, considering the things they did, they are very lucky to be alive.

    Said husband then grew up to be an anesthesiologist. The other day he was interviewing a 20 year old male patient. He asked the boy if he had had any previous surgeries and the boy proceeded to tell my husband that he had been shot in the head at a friend’s house when he was nine with a household gun.

    Based on my husband’s experience as a kid, I am really not a fan of household guns, even if supposedly safely locked up. That said, your and your husband are clearly much more involved parents that my husband’s parents were and your are probably at least a few years from having kids who can crack complex codes. At my boys ages (2 and 5), I would be most worried that they would topple a safe on top of themselves.

    This is something that I worry about a lot since I have boys, though…. True, there are many things to worry about as a parent (my two year old recently toppled a dresser and narrowly escaped– could have been as lethal as a gun), but guns make me very nervous as a mom of boys, knowing what my husband was like.

  20. akeeyu on January 11th, 2012 10:40 am

    When I was nine, my best friend’s dad had guns. Not just guns, that man had all caps GUNS. He had dozens of handguns, rifles, assault rifles, and he had a reinforced locked walk in closet in which he kept them. I should probably clarify that he worked as a gunsmith in a state with extreeeeeeeemely lax gun laws and attitudes, not a survivalist weirdo.

    His daughter, my best friend, had taken gun safety classes and been hunting and had her own guns, too. She also knew how to get into the giant gun closet.

    Naturally, being nine, she showed the inside of the giant gun closet to her friends when we came over. Since I was her *best* friend, she showed *me* how to open it.

    One day, she decided that she was going to teach me how to shoot a gun. We’d start with an air rifle, she said, and then move up. She set up a piece of wood in the backyard, showed me how to aim, and I pulled the trigger, at which point the pellet (or whatever the hell is in an air rifle) ricocheted off the board, zinged back at us, nicked the sliding glass door about six inches above our heads and disappeared for parts unknown.

    We gave each other the traditional OH HOLY SHIT look and immediately reconsidered the wisdom of amateur gun lessons.

    Looking back as an adult, I find this hilarious. Looking back as a parent, I find this terrifying.

    Caroline’s example is a good one. Even supposedly childproof safes (or childproof anything elses) are not foolproof or smart kid proof, and even the smartest kids can be kind of dumb when it comes to guns.

    Yes, I would want to know.

    I bet my mother would have liked to know that since my friend’s dogs all liked me and her family never locked their doors, I had access to a freaking arsenal all through middle and high school, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell her.

    Kids are like that.

  21. akeeyu on January 11th, 2012 3:54 pm

    Incidentally, it seems like you could totally avoid the whole conversation (pretty much ever) by just storing your guns off site. Apparently local gun clubs offer storage at reasonable rates.

    I can’t really think of a compelling reason to have a gun *inside* the house on a daily basis. Having a gun won’t keep you from getting robbed while you’re out of the house, and the odds of being able to quickly reach a safely stored gun in the event of a home invasion are slim to none.

    Unless you’re living in an extremely unsafe area and are perpetually packing a gun in your pocket (yeah, my friend’s gunsmith father [legally] did that, too), I honestly don’t see the advantage of storing a gun inside your house.

  22. Linda on January 11th, 2012 4:15 pm

    Akeeyu: that’s your take, and I fully respect it.

    Here’s a story, just one that I read recently that’s stuck with me. Imagine if this couple had had an accessible (say, a safe next to the bed, which is a location many people choose) gun during this home invasion:


  23. zetta on January 11th, 2012 11:26 pm

    Linda, Thank you for that link.
    I have no children. I have a dog. But I think I will take my firearm inside its safe and keep it closer.
    One would never think such a thing could happen to them, but it does, oh, it does.

  24. akeeyu on January 12th, 2012 2:05 am

    Re the link: If you wake up and a stranger already has a knife at your throat, I’m not at all convinced that a properly stored gun is going to be a tactical advantage. Anybody that unhinged isn’t likely to be gracious enough to grant you time to access your gun.

    I’m also not sure how constructive it is to introduce a legitimate safety hazard into a household to attempt to protect against an event that is so incredibly unlikely.

    I’ve had a shit ton of what I call “small numbers things” (events that are so statistically improbable, they approach total ridiculousness) happen to me and my family, but at the end of the day, I can’t let the fear of things rule my life.

    The mantra of parents who blog is frequently “Oh God, we’re not perfect,” and yet the standard for gun safety is perfection. You can’t forget things. You can’t make assumptions. You can’t make a mistake. You just can’t.

    It’s fine if you want to accept that responsibility and assume that risk for your own family, but I think that if you’re going to stake somebody else’s child’s safety on your infallibility, you have involve them in the decision to do so. It’s the most ethically defensible position.

  25. christy puckett on January 12th, 2012 7:23 am

    Living here in MS, owning guns is like breathing air. Almost everyone hunts, so gun ownership is natural. My husband not only hunts, he also shoots competition rifles. He re-loads his own bullets and even owns a company that specializes in building custom rifles. Believe me when I say, We OWN guns.

    That being said, I’ve never thought to tell people that. Our children are 3 and 5 and are continuosly taught the importance of gun safety. My husband does most of his gunwork at his shop, but we do have guns stored in our home: SAFELY. We keep our guns in the type of safe you described, our pistols in a different safe, and our bullets locked up elsewhere. I just assume that people know we own guns given the nature of my husband’s business. However, I have never really thought to ask others how theirs are stored.

    Thanks for posting this!

  26. Val on January 12th, 2012 11:31 am

    My 14yo cousin-by-marriage was killed by a friend playing with his dad’s gun. Guns are a REALLY big deal for me. Now that I have kids, I would absolutely think to ask…I always do….but your arrangement is perfectly safe and I would be very comfortable leaving my kid at your house.

  27. Val on January 12th, 2012 11:35 am

    although, as your kids get older, I would be more nervous. What’s kidproof against a toddler may not be against a determined or nosey teenager.

  28. Livi on January 12th, 2012 1:15 pm

    As you have them safely locked – I don’t think you need to disclose, unless asked.

    I have had one parent ask if we kept guns in the home in response to a birthday sleepover invite.

    I personally do not, but know how to handle a gun.

    One thing – the safes are young kid proof now, but as the kids get older, I would have them take gun safety classes (so the guns aren’t seen as ‘secret’ desirable things), so it’s drilled home how to be safe with them (and thus will prevent them wanting to sneak into the safes).

  29. Holly on January 18th, 2012 12:34 am

    You already have more responses than you could ever read, and my perspective is not any different than some, but I feel compelled to express it anyway.

    If my kid was friends with your kid and you brought it up, I would think you were very thoughtful and would appreciate the heads up. But – I’d want to know a WHOLE LOT about exactly how you keep ’em and where and I’d want to have a long talk with my kid about never, ever messing with them. I am very much opposed to individual gun ownership and would be very uneasy with my kid going over to someone’s house where there’s a small arsenal. I love my kid, but he’s not exactly the best decision maker in the world.

    I live in Seattle and am familiar with the home invasion story you cited. Doubtful owning a gun would have done much for them. They were surprised in the middle of the night. A gun can just as easily be removed from the owner and turned against them as well. Not to mention, no matter how much someone is trying to hurt you, you have to have the intestinal fortitude to shoot, and possibly kill, another human being. The moral implications there are huge. Not sure I’ve read many stories about the successful use of guns in self defense, but I know I’ve read plenty about accidental discharges and accidental death and dismemberment.

    I don’t have a gun in my house and never will. I don’t understand why people do have them at all given that the risks far outweigh the advantages. And for those who say, “but everyone has kitchen knives…” most kitchen knives will maime you, but rarely kill you unless you intend them to. Guns will kill easily without intent.

    But I’d still appreciate your forthrightness just the same.

  30. Rubel Bogra on September 15th, 2012 10:46 pm

    I understand that the government is corrupted but that does not mean that everyone gets a license to get corrupted.
    I still remember those lines from my MA drivers manual which say something like, friendship bands
    when you are pulled over, you can not tell the officer that others were going faster than that.

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