Q. When sending your child on a playdate, what is the best way to ask whether there is a gun in the house?
A. “I think you just come out and ask, ‘Is there a gun in your house?’ ” says Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of the Manhattan-based New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
Parents are direct when asking about other safety measures when entrusting their children to other people, she says. When a child is traveling in someone else’s car, they make sure the child is in a car seat. If the child has a peanut allergy, they make sure that peanut products aren’t being served. “They ask if there’s a fence around a swimming pool,” Gunn Barrett says. It should be just as straightforward to add the gun question to the list, she says. “Just get used to asking the question.”
If the answer is yes, ask whether the gun is locked away. “Maybe go see for yourself,” Gunn Barrett says. Or suggest that the playdate take place in your home instead, she says. “It’s your prerogative not to have your child play over there,” she says. Guns are the second leading cause of death for children, following automobile accidents and ahead of drownings, Gunn Barrett says. “You’re talking about a weapon that’s lethal,” she says.
For more support, visit askingsaveskids.org, which has a short video addressing the fact that although it may feel awkward to ask whether there’s an unlocked gun in the house, plenty of parenting situations are awkward, and asking the question could save their child’s life. It offers a pledge that it says more than 19 million parents have signed committing to asking the question. “You don’t want to be sorry and say, ‘I wish I’d asked,’ ” Gunn Barrett says.