It is sometimes awkward for pediatricians to ask parents about guns in the home during an office visit. Some parents welcome the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to educating their own children about proper firearm use and secure storage. Others are deeply resentful of the question being asked, as if we’re prying into their most private secrets. And still other parents have answered the question honestly and innocently: “Yes, we have guns and no, they’re not locked up. (But they’re on the top shelf in the closet where the kids can’t reach.)”
A new public awareness campaign — Asking Saves Kids (ASK) — is designed to get the subject of kids and guns back into the public conversation. Dan Gross is onboard:
Parenting has never been an easy assignment. Meaningful and joyful, yes. Easy, no. We can all agree that parents need all the help they can get to keep their kids safe and healthy in an increasingly complicated world.
Every day across America nine children are shot in unintentional shootings. Yet, many parents are not aware that one in three U.S. homes with children has a gun. In Pennsylvania, the percentage is slightly higher, at 36 percent, including 50,000 Pennsylvania children living in a home with a loaded gun that is stored unlocked. This is simply a risk that parents need to be prepared to manage. Yet, nationally, more than half of parents say it has never occurred to them to ask about the presence of guns where their children play.
There are questions that parents routinely ask other parents when their own children spend time at a friend’s house, like, “Will there be an adult in the house?,” or “Do I need to leave a car seat with you?” (if a car trip is planned), or “Can you keep all nuts away? My child is allergic.” But does one parent ever ask another parent: “Are there guns in your home? Are they locked up securely?”
Gross remembers what it’s like to be a kid, and he understands what it takes to be a good parent:
For those of us who own guns, it is still very important to teach our children about gun safety. But research shows clearly that teaching kids responsibility on its own is not enough. Every parent knows that our kids are naturally curious. We can think about our own experiences as kids and what we found and played with unbeknownst to our own parents.
It is dangerous to assume we can predict what children will do if they find a gun, especially if that gun is in the home of another child. But we do know tragic deaths from children playing with guns can be avoided. When so many children in Pennsylvania live in a home with a loaded gun stored unlocked, a simple conversation could save a life.
No need to get all defensive. No need to apologize for maybe hurting someone’s feelings by asking the question.