[ED: This post originally ran in November, 2016, but is wonderfully evergreen. Enjoy.]
New York Times scribe Philip Galanes writes a regular column called “Social Q’s” in the Grey Lady’s Fashion & Style section. It’s a “Dear Abby” style column addressing readers’ question about social etiquette.
Last week, an aghast correspondent asked how to handle a Thanksgiving guest who (gasp!) might be carrying a gun.
My brother-in-law is a police officer. He carries a gun, even off duty. He comes to visit us once a year. I told my sister I do not feel comfortable having a gun in the house. (I have a small child.) She said she would talk to her husband, but I doubt she has. What should I do?
No doubt Anonymous’ sister rolled her eyes at the anxiety in her sibling’s voice when the question was presented. Mr. Galanes’ response:
Follow up. Ask, “How did Jim feel about leaving his gun at home?” In the event of pushback (or noncommittal dithering), add: “We know that Jim is a responsible gun owner. We just don’t want guns in our home.” If you continue to believe she’s shining you on, install a metal detector at the front door. Happy Thanksgiving!
To say that Mr. Galanes’ response is woefully inadequate to the task at hand is an understatement. Lord knows a person has a right to dictate terms of entry to her own private property. But one usually invites close family over with few conditions.
My advice to Anonymous?
First ask: what is it about your brother-in-law possessing a firearm that makes you uncomfortable? Maybe if you can articulate that to yourself — and then to your sister — you might find that she and her husband have answers to your concerns about gun safety that make you see that a firearm holstered on the hip of a good guy (a cop in this case) is actually a net gain to society.
Another variable to consider: how many times has Anonymous been around your brother-in-law when he was carrying a firearm…with no bad results?
On the other hand, if no reassurance is possible (either because the brother-in-law is actually not a trustworthy person, or because Anonymous simply is possessed with an irrational phobia that requires treatment, not reasonable answers from reasonable people), perhaps making this clear to the invitees might prompt them to either compromise for the sake of indulging family on a holiday.
Or simply decide to go elsewhere for Thanksgiving. (Presumably if the gun is a deal-breaker for a family dinner, the latter might be best for all?)
Lord knows we’ve had enough of smashmouth politics in the past year to last us a while. Trying to be a little forgiving and understanding of our family over Thanksgiving for the benefit of all sides might be a good thing. After all, we are the ones who are winning, n’est-ce pas?