Playdates with Friends Who Have Guns in the House


Note: This post talks about how to address the topic of guns with the parents of your kids’ friends. It is not meant to be a post that argues about whether guns should be legal/illegal and/or gun control. After I had written this post, I was reminded that fellow blogger, Elise, wrote about this topic back in September – it is obviously a topic that sits in the mind of many parents. 

There’s a post circulating through Facebook that shows a link to a poster regarding an effort which promotes ways in which to ask friends’ parents whether there are guns in the house and if so, how to respond. It’s been interesting to see how my Facebook friends and their acquaintances have responded to this; namely, it’s been interesting to see who finds the campaign and question offensive.

A poster for the “Just Ask” campaign

In response to the circulating posts, a friend of mine told a story about how her kid’s friend’s Dad became infuriated over the question – basically telling her that it was none of her business whether they had guns in the house, and that he was insulted that she would think that he would be irresponsible enough to leave it within reach of the children. She said that the child’s father basically “uninvited” them from the playdate, and also uninvited them from friendship. Her child was heartbroken about the whole issue because in addition to losing a friend, the other child went around school telling everyone that they were all “p*ssies.”

I am all for free speech and free rights. I respect your choices as an American citizen, and this post is absolutely not to discuss whether guns should be illegal or not – that’s a larger question that I choose not to get into. But as a parent of young kids who are now embarking into the land of “unsupervised playdates” in the form of parents sitting in the next room chatting over coffee or dropoff, it is my right and responsibility to ask whether my kid’s friends have guns in the house. It is a fact that if you have a gun in the house, the probability of something happening, no matter how responsible you are as a gunowner, is something more than zero. And it is a fact that children are naturally curious and tempted by things that are considered off-limits. As much as I can discuss how dangerous guns are with my kids, the concept is completely intangible because a gun (to them) is a mythical item.  Therefore, my question over whether you have guns in the house is not because I don’t trust you or your child – I’m sure you are responsible as a parent, and I’m sure you’ve taught your own child to be fearful of guns – it is because I don’t trust my own child / children.

So, to the parents of my kids’ friends – expect that when you invite us over for a playdate that I will ask about guns in your house. Understand that when you say yes, I will respectfully decline the invitation but in turn will welcome you and your children into my own home to play. Please understand that I am not judging you, your character, or your choices; I am acting as a mom who would like to protect my children (from themselves).

10 comments on “Playdates with Friends Who Have Guns in the House”

  1. I worry about this issue as my daughter grows up. As the family of a police officer we have guns in our house, secured in a safe. I can only hope that when my daughter goes to school and starts to have friends over she won’t be left out bc of this issue. I grew up with a rifle in our front closet and a grandfather who built rifles. We never touched them. I can respect peoples discomfort. Ask about the security and even ask to see how they’re stored. That’s what I hope parents do when it’s our daughter who wants to have friends over. And without a doubt we will ask the same questions when our daughter goes to someone else’s house. We wouldn’t be insulted in the least but would be if someone just refuses to allow our kids to play together without any discussion.

    1. Thanks for your response.

      I would hope that most reasonable parents, even ones who are afraid to allow their kids to be in a home with guns (however responsible) would not outright shut down the discussion but would want to come up with alternatives that works so that everyone is comfortable; even if it is not the most ideal.

  2. I live on a game reserve in South Africa, and my husband is a PH (professional hunter); with us living on a reserve which is home to antelope and wild animals, and with the nature if my husband’s job, we have hunting rifles in our home. We have 2 children at home and we are very safety conscious!!

    One thing in South Africa is that one CANNOT own any weapon (handgun, pistol, rifle) without having a secure safe in one’s home that is inspected by police before your license is approved. For every weapon that one owns, one needs to apply for a license from scratch and go through the whole rigmarole every time, for every weapon bought. There is also a limit on the amount of guns that you may own. Your weapon, even though it’s paid for, may not leave that hunting shop without your license being approved first (this process is known to take up to three years, yes three YEARS before one may bring one’s weapon home!). DO we have a secure safe in our home? Yes! One has to get through two other doors (both which are locked) and a locked safe before anyone can get to these weapons.

    All our friends are aware of our situation and that we have rifles in our home, and none have ever shied away from visiting, perhaps it’s because its law to keep weapons kept locked away in safes at all times in SA?
    I don’t want to assume, but does one have to keep a gun locked in a safe in USA?
    Would I take offense to anyone asking to see our secure set up? No. I, myself would like to see and feel safety in other people’s homes, and even ask other PH’s where there rifles are kept. Safety is paramount in my circle of friends but yes, kids are curious, and guns should NOT be kept in any area or space where kids will play or frequent! It is most definitely a parent and adult’s responsibility to keep ALL rifles and guns locked away at all times!

    Should you shy away from parents with guns etc? Perhaps find out with the parents first what they are doing regarding the safety of the weapons and safety of their kids before ending play-dates? Not one of my children’s friends know that we have rifles at home. Out of sight (and locked away) and out of mind. If parents are not open to sharing their weapon safety, yes, most definitely end play dates with them should you feel that they could be doing more regarding safety. But should you feel that the parents are doing everything (and more) to ensure that weapons are securely LOCKED away and are in no way posing danger to other kids (even their own kids) please do stay for a visit!

    PS – please be nice… I realise that gun safety is such a fragile and hugely important topic.

    1. Thank you so much for this very thoughtful, carefully worded, and informative response. To your question of whether gun safes are required in the US, I believe the answer is no, but I’m not 100% sure of that.

      I think what has come out in my post here (as evidenced by responses in Facebook and the like) is that perhaps I am a bit overprotective at this point in time. Perhaps in the future, my perspective will change once I have encountered this issue more frequently and feel comfortable with both the responses of my kids and of their friend’s parents. I’m just not quite there yet.

  3. Thought provoking post Vivian. I honestly had never even thought of this until Elise’s post a few months ago. I agree with Tara, I think it’s great to point out that it’s not about the parent, it’s about worrying about your own child’s curiosity.

  4. Your friend’s former friend sounds doesn’t sound like the kind of person I’d like to hang around with! Good post. And a reasonable question to ask. Great point about it not being the gun owner that you’re so worried about, but your child’s curiousity.

  5. If the parent told you where the gun was and how it was (safely) stored, you still wouldn’t let your kid have a play date there? I find that a little absurd, but to each their own, I guess. I mean, people have swimming pools … and knives … and blinds cords … and a million other things that could hurt your child. You should only entrust your kids with people you know and trust no matter what.

    1. Perhaps as my children get older and begin to show that they have the right level of respect for these items, I may change my mind but at this age (and I would imagine that for the next few years), I do not yet have the confidence that my children will do what’s right in the given situation because they are still too young to really understand the consequences. I think about and struggle with the right way to communicate the severity of something like this so that they truly UNDERSTAND it. At the moment, it’s all a little nebulous to them because it’s a concept and not a practice and I think the nebulousness creates a little bit of a natural temptation for them.

      You’re totally right – those other items are dangerous and can have equally as tragic consequences, but they have been around water (and can swim) and knives (and have seen me get cut in the kitchen) and blinds cords (although not as closely as the other two items) – so I at least know that they KNOW what the outcome can be. With a gun, I just don’t know that that healthy fear is there yet.

  6. What I love, Vivian, is that you name the developmentally appropriate curiosity (and rule-breaking) of our children. My beliefs are truly far less relevant than the fact that if temptation were to present itself, I cannot guarantee that my child wouldn’t venture out of bounds, and the risk is not worth it.

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