Playdates at Homes with Guns

Archived Q&A and Reviews

January 2004

Our 10 year son has playdates at his friend's house, and we recently discovered that there are firearms in the house. We're not sure if the firmarms are loaded or if the ammo is keep separate. We plan on talking the family about this, and we know them fairly well, and consider them responsible folks. Even if they are responsible about the firearms, are we being too paranoid if we decide to end the playdates at the friend's house. We can have the playdates here.

If you consider these parents responsible folks, why would you assume that they wouldn't follow proper gun safety protocol? Would you assume that otherwise responsible parents don't use seat belts when they invite your child to join them on an outing? I would ask them in a direct way.

By the way, I have a family member who recently married someone in law enforcement and since I knew we would be visiting their house frequently with our children, I asked this man how he stores his guns. He showed me the gun safe he had installed in his closet and reassured me that he's very careful about using it since he has a child of his own. That was good enough for me and I feel totally at ease in their home.

When in doubt, ASK. If you sense any defensiveness or hedging on this issue, it would be best to discontinue playdates at their house.

Though we are totally anti-guns in the house, my younger son had a friend when he was younger who's dad worked at night in a profession where he had to drive in sometimes not the best neighborhoods and go to people's homes. He'd been held up at gunpoint (before he carried a gun). He owned a gun which he used when he was working. At home, it was unloaded and put in a locked cabinet. The ammo was put in a different locked cabinet and the kids had no idea where the keys were. Seems a fairly safe situation for the kids who are in a house with a gun. I always felt OK having my son over at their house.It's never come up in anyone elses house and truthfully, I've never asked any parents of kids my son plays with. I assume they ! have the same standpoint as I do, which may not be a good thing to assume, but...what's done is done.

I'd say, talk to the people and find out how they store their guns. Don't make a blanket judgement that your son shouldn't be there just because they have a gun....get your info first and then make your decision.

I don't think you are being paranoid at all. Guns kill friends and family members in accidental shootings at alarming rates!!! And kids KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING IS. So even if the guns and ammo are kept in separate places, I bet the kid in the house knows where both are and how to get to them...even if his parents think he doesn't. Even if the guns and ammo are locked up, there is a good chance the kid knows where the keys are! I'm a teacher (at a so-called ''good'' school, btw) and I am constantly amazed at the stuff kids have access to that parents are unaware of. Kids are waaaay savvier than a lot of adults think. They are also very curious, and the! y are also pretty frequently unaware that they could die. So I think you are smart to be concerned. Guns are a perfectly reasonable thing to be concerned about, in my opinion. better safe than sorry

Oh do I have a story for you re: firearms @friends homes. My sister was but 14 years old when her very best friend was killed accidentally with a handgun that fell from a shelf and went off. Now I tell you this because my parents were aware of the gun and had spoken to the parents about not having it accessable to the kids. The father had ''forgotten'' to put it away after a trip to the shooting range. The point is people forget. I'm sure he had the best of intentions, (most people do), but he lost his only daughter to ''forgetfullness''. If you read all the advice which I'm sure you'll get your fair share, please, please, remember that if you know about the gun, then the kids ! know about the gun and sooner or later they WILL go searching.

You should definately talk to the parents about your concerns. As the parent of a toddler and a firearm owner, I personally would insist that the firearms are kept unloaded, in a locked container, and that they have trigger locks installed. Also that the ammunition is kept in a separate locked container. As far as having playdates at your house instaed of theirs, that really would depend on your comfort level with the answers that you get from the other parents. Good luck.

I do not think that you are being too paranoid. I used to actually ask freinds that my son went on playdates with if they had a gun in the house (and now since he's older have not but think i will do again). I per! sonally would not let my kid play at a home where a gun is kept. i remember advice from an anti gun source or something like that telling parents that is is acceptable to ask another family. i would much rather have piece of mind and know that my child is safe and god forbid anything horrible happening b/c i was embarrassed to ask or assumed something. so theres my piece of advice and good luck.

There is good information about this subject at The ASK campaign has good suggestions about talking to other parents about guns, and what to do if someone does have guns. I do think it is reasonable to request that playdates are at your house if there are guns in the their house. Good luck to you! Sima

My husband and I are both law enforcement officers. The guns in our home are ALWAYS either on our persons or locked in a gun safe that opens with a combination. Ask the parents what precautions they take in securing their firearms. Keeping guns and ammo in separate locations is not enough. Nor is a gun safe that opens with a key if there is ANY chance whatsoever that the child might have access to the key. Responsible gun owners are very emphatic about gun safety. If these people are not, I would not allow my child to play in their home, and I would explain to them (tactfully) the reason why. Better safe than sorry

If you in fact now know there are firearms I would recommend that your child not be at that house until you spoke with adults, were actually shown how/where the guns and ammo are stored and were totally confident that the children or others would not have intentional or unintentional access to the firearms. You should also discuss with your children what to do if they come in contact with firearms (don't ever touch, pick up, always go find an adult). Several years ago, my son's friend was visiting a neighbor, they were both 13, the adults were not at home and the neighbor child showed the other child the gun he had recently found. The child said he could not stay and was leaving to go home when the neighbor demonstrated that the gun ''was empty.'' Fortunately, although seriously wounded, the child survived with no long term damage. But he nearly died, despite doing the right thing, leaving the situation. I had a neighbor who was a CHP, our children played together often, but only after he volunteerily showed me how his firearms were stored and how he dealt with them as soon as he got home. His equ! ipment was stored in a very secure vault in the garage. If on duty, he stored items in a lock box in the trunk of his car. He never even walked into his home with his gun. Prior to the above incident I hadn't asked our children's friends if they had guns, I thought I knew them well enough to ''guess'', after that, everyone was asking everyone. And I was surprised to discover that some people did have firearms in their homes. They totally understood, and they always had secure set ups for this. Studies have shown (do you remember seeing hidden camera footage of children finding guns?) that children despite being taught what to do if they found a gun, generally still picked them up, examined it, small boys entered an almost trancelike state. You cannot depend on training. YOu must be pro-active.

I most definitely do NOT think it's too paranoid to refuse to allow your child to visit homes where there are firearms, regardless of how ''responsible'' the family living there is.

Dear Concerned Parent, By all means, have the playdates at your house. Your level of concern is appropriate to the situation, and your instincts are to be trusted. For a number of months, I had the privilege of serving as the Northern California Coordinator for the Million Mom March, and in that capacity, came to know a number of parents who lost their children due to firearms. To me, these parents represent some of the most courageous folks I will ever know, and I would not wish their sorrow on any one else on the planet. So please, please, err on the side of caution. Do not let your child play in this household unless you absolutely unequivocally know that the firearms are locked away and totally inaccessible. It only takes a moment to change things for eternity.

Depends on your 'feeling' about what could possibly go wrong in a sit! uation where there are kids and firearms. Personally, i would get your child out of there ASAP and talk with the parents about possibilities of their child's access to the firearm. It's certainly also possible that if the children are curious enough, they will find a way to get hold of the 'available' firearms and bring them over to your house for a 'playdate'. more paranoid than you

I would immediately stop playdates at any house where I knew there were firearms. better safe than very very sorry

Wow, sounds scary. Our babysitting coop has a rule that if there are firearms in the home, the weapon and the ammunition must be LOCKED AWAY in SEPARATE PLACES. Could you see if that's ALWAYS the case? If it's not, I think you are wise to keep the play-dates at your own home. Either way, I would talk to your chi! ldren now about gun safety. As they get older, you will not have as clsoe tabs on them, and you probably won't even know whether the homes they visit have guns. I've been talking about this to my kids since they were old enough to be a a play-date without me. I stress that guns are serious risks:

1. NEVER TOUCH A GUN. If you see one, tell an adult right away.

2. GUNS CAN BE LOADED even if they look empty, so NEVER POINT A GUN, even to pretend. NEVER TOUCH A GUN!

3. Many people in our country - including children - are killed by guns by accident! Even people who know a lot about guns cannot always tell if there is a bullet in the chamber. If the gun goes off, you or your friend could die.

4. If someone else picks up a gun, get away. If it accidentally shoots, you could die.

I'd be honest with the parents in the other family about my concerns over the gun, and have no more playdates there. Period. I know someone who lost his son because the kids were ''just playing'' with what they thought was an unloaded gun. Years later, it still makes me sad, angry, and scared about that loss. I can't imagine what it has done to the surviving parents. anon