“When you drop your kid off at a friend’s house, you often ask the friend’s parent a million questions: Is your family dog-friendly? How do you monitor Internet usage? Is the backyard pool properly fenced in? It helps to think about gun safety as you would any of these other household risks. Add ‘Is there an unlocked gun in your house?’ to your standard list of inquiries.” That’s the advice provided by Hayley Fox at takepart.com. The truth is I’ve never asked any of these questions when dropping my daughter off for a play date. I just . . .
made sure the family were “good people” and assumed that good people take care to make sure children don’t die in accidents, poisonings or negligent discharges. How did I know that? How did I know they’d be responsible for my daughter’s safety?
Not by interrogation. There are thousands of clues to parental responsibility, from the way the parents dress and speak to how they keep house. But the best intel comes from knowing their child. If you like the child you’ll like the parents. Substitute the word “trust.” Because it’s the child that may put your progeny in danger, not the parents. That’s holds true whether we’re talking about playing with guns, jumping off the balcony into the pool or downing a large quantity of Daddy’s scotch.
See what I did there? Not many children secretly quaff scotch. At the point where that’s a thing (teenage years) there’s not a lot you can do to protect your child from themselves or peer pressure – at least not proactively. At that point you’ve got to hope that nurture (parenting) and nature (common sense) will be enough to see them through. In terms of guns, there’s a lot you can do to make your kid(s) safe – even when they’re not “properly” supervised.
The most important aspect of gun safety for children is not gun locks, safes or supervision. It’s assimilating the four rules of gun safety.
1. All guns are always loaded.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
If a child understands these rules – especially numbers one and two – they can be safe around guns, even when they’re not supposed to be around guns. If a parent impresses upon their child the destructive power of a firearm, and tells them to be assertive and/or leave if a friend produce a gun, they will have the greatest chance of not being shot – or shooting someone else – via a negligent discharge.
Or an intentional discharge, for that matter.
Be that as it is, there’s nothing wrong with a parent asking another parent if there are any unsecured guns in the house of a prospective play date. In Rhode Island, several parents did just that. I said no, and that was that. The question is: what parent would say yes? “Yup. I’ve got a shotgun in the closet. But it’s way up high so the kids can’t get it.” Or “Sure. I keep a handgun in a shoe box in the closet. But I keep the kids out of my closet.”
That’s the flaw in Ms. Fox’s gun safety play date strategy, not the possibility that the unsecured guns question will put parents’ noses out of joint. No matter how much you trust other parents, relying on them to keep your kids safe only goes so far. Real gun safety relies on what’s between your child’s ears, not other people’s security procedures. Which are important but not as important as your child’s firearms familiarity.
You inherently teach every parent that you ask about guns that it’s a valuable conversation to have. If more parents talk openly about safe gun storage, the less awkward the conversation will be, said [Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s director of public health and safety Jennie] Lintz, and hopefully, more people will follow proper protocol to safely store their firearms.
America’s violent crime rates are actually on the decline, according to multiplereports, and the number of children dying from gun violence has been falling as well. But progress is relatively slow, advocates say, and the key to true gun-safety reform is approving tighter legislation and educating the public. Although a handful of states have criminal penalties for negligent gun owners, all states should follow suit, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
Informing people about proper gun safety and storage is also key, and the Brady Campaign points to efforts such as “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” (the anti–drunk driving campaign) as a successful model for how to change the public’s perception about a risky behavior.
Fox’s article relies exclusively on advice from gun control groups. As you’d expect, the antis’ advice for keeping children safe is underpinned by their civilian disarmament agenda, which emphasizes government intervention over personal responsibility. Or, in this case, seeks to use government intervention to mandate personal responsibility. From parents, not children.
By ignoring the best possible way to protect our children from negligent discharges, educating them, Fox and friends put our kids in harm’s way.