I grew up with liberal, Jewish parents in New York and New Jersey. We were surrounded by like-minded families. I doubt my parents even considered asking other parents about the gun situation in their homes before a playdate. It surely wasn’t on their radar.
When I was 8 we moved to Florida. Guns are a big deal here. When I made a new friend at school, my parents helped facilitate a playdate. They were shocked, to say the least, when we entered the home and saw guns mounted all over the walls. My mom stayed during the playdate and never let me play over there again. Whenever I played with that friend, she made excuses for it to be at my house. We were definitely in a culture we knew nothing about, and it scared her.
I am well aware that there are millions of Americans that legally obtain and use guns for hunting or protection. They have respect for their weapons and they teach their children the same. I just don’t share that sentiment. I’ve never held a gun. I have no desire to.
When my father-in-law (who was from West Virginia) passed away a few years ago, my mother-in-law gave his handgun to my husband. She told us that it was a family heirloom that had originally belonged to my husband’s grandfather. She suggested that we mount it and put it on the wall in our home. I refused. There was no way I was going to glorify a gun to my children by displaying it with pride in my house, nor was I going to basically announce to anyone who entered my home that we were gun people. This just wasn’t going to happen. My husband understood. The gun is in storage, safely protected. We don’t own any bullets.
Until recently, I naively assumed that everyone in my circle of friends felt the same way I did about guns, and if they didn’t, that their guns were locked up in a safe where no one could ever find them. I was wrong.
After yet another recent shooting on the news, I happened to have two conversations with friends. Both friends I know to be more on the conservative side, and not anti-gun like me. One of them told me they have a permit and carry a gun for protection. This person doesn’t have children.
The other friend (who is a mom) told me that they have multiple guns in her home. Her husband is well-versed in gun safety and use. While the majority of them are locked up in a safe, one gun remains loaded and in her bedroom to use in case of an intruder. She assured me that her children could never find it.
This surprised me. While I believe her that the gun is not in the reach of little hands and is protected with a safety, it terrifies me to even think about the possibilities. It made me realize that (like it or not) I need to start to have this uncomfortable conversation with all of the parents of the friends my kids want to play with.
When my second grader comes home and begs me to call someone’s mom because he wants to have a playdate, I now have to ask the mom if they have a gun in their home. If they do, it’s not a deal breaker. I would hope they would understand a few follow up questions. If they don’t like the questions, or I don’t like the answers, then the playdate isn’t going to happen at their house (so I better start stocking up on snacks).
Asking is uncomfortable and awkward. It’s certainly not the best way to make new friends. But I’m going to just have to take a deep breath and do it. If I didn’t ask, and something awful happened, I’d never be able to forgive myself.
Do you have the gun conversation with other parents? If so, how do you handle it?