Almost 20 percent of homes in Illinois have guns, but for many parents, asking other parents about firearms is an awkward and often overlooked conversation. Yet with eight children killed by guns every day in the United States, it’s a conversation we all should be having before sending our children into another family’s home.
“As parents, we need to seize every opportunity to make sure our children are safe, and you see the importance of asking when you talk to parents who didn’t ask and it wound up being a decision they regret for the rest of their lives,” says Dan Gross, CEO and co-founder of PAX, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending gun violence.
To start the conversation about guns, Gross recommends parents ask it along with other questions you might typically ask before a play date, such as whether there will be adult supervision, if they have a swimming pool or talking about a child’s allergies."Just make this an,‘oh, and by the way,'” Gross says.
The important thing is to keep any emotion or politics out of the conversation, Gross says."It’s just another question a responsible parent asks to keep a child safe.”
If the answer to the question is yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics and PAX recommends asking whether the gun is kept in a locked gun safe, with the ammunition stored separately. Invite the children to play at your home if you have any misgivings.
Conversations about guns should begin by the time your child is 5, when there is typically more unsupervised time on a play date. But Gross says it’s never too early to begin the conversation."It doesn’t hurt to practice and to show other parents you care,” he says."It could never be harmful information to have.”
For more information about gun safety, visit PAX’s Web site at paxusa.org.