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“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 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.

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  1. I don’t have kids, so I often don’t understand the things we have to do “for the children”.

    I also survived jungle gyms, playing cowboys with cap guns, climbing trees and other clear and present dangers.

    But here’s what I don’t get — if you don’t trust the parents of the kid who your kid is going to play with sans a 15 page release, why on earth are you letting your kid play there???

    • I like kids and consider myself a youth rights advocate. So I often get mixed up with many in the “for duh childrunz” crowd”. You want to know what it is really about? Their own personal moral systems and nothing about children. So many people claim to be for youth rights or call themselves child advocates and say they want to make changes for the children. However their ideas always seem to be more about their personal morals than about actually making things better for youth. They are about removing responsibility from youth (so we have young adults who can’t function) and forcing them to see things as they do.

      For the children really means “for my own opinion but saying it is for the children gets people to side with me”.

      • Nice post, Albaniaaaaaan, (and “yes, I counted the six “a’s” between “i” and “n”) 🙂 I am not a youth advocate as you are, and I have no children, but I think you hit it spot on from my experience with some of the “Parents” I know. There’s a strange meme these days that seems to go something like “Keep the kids ignorant and they’ll be safe.” In reality it doesn’t work that way.

        A couple of friends of mine from High School got married, found good jobs, became Fundamentalist Christians, had children, raised them to think the only literature was The Bible and “Bible Storybooks”, put them in Private Christian Schools, No general TV, only Bible TV and Bible Movies, No radio except Christian Radio and in all ways kept them ignorant of the “sinful secular world”. ALL of those kids hit young adulthood and went wild because they were totally unprepared to deal with the “real world”. Their Parents were beside themselves and could not understand what had happened. It was really ugly and one couple lost a child to heroine overdose at the age of 20.

        Now, Christian Readers, I’m not striking-out at you and generally oppose anyone telling anyone else how to live their lives and raise their children, but consider this an observation that arrives at the conclusion: A rigid upbringing that ignores reality leaves the child with deficient understanding of why you stick to your Christian Beliefs, despite what everyone else does or says. Do not ever underestimate the huge power of “peer pressure” on emerging adults, particularly those whose upbringing may have been very sheltered. There’s great value in knowledge and the understanding of what behaviors and dangers will confront you in the “real world” and how they relate to your Beliefs, whatever they may be. Exposure to things you’d rather not expose your children to can be a great learning tool in developing ‘discernment’, and the ability to “discern” behaviors and influences is what keeps your children safe in the long run.

        In the case of these friends of mine, and others I have known, the Children’s upbringing was a classic case of projection of the Parent’s opinions and biases and the results were devastating.

        Okay, that was more than I originally intended to say. Hope you don’t mind, Albaniaaaaaan.

  2. I’ve been waiting 12 years for someone to ask one of these random questions when coming over to play with my boys.

    So far the trap has not been sprung 😉

    • I’ve been asked.

      A couple of months ago the mother of a friend of my son was dropping him off for a play date and asked “Do you have any guns in the house?” I said, “Yes, except for the one I’m wearing, they’re unloaded and locked in the safe. The one I’m wearing gets locked up when I go to sleep, but it stays loaded.” She said “Oh, good to hear.” hugged her kid, and told him to have fun.

  3. “If more parents talk openly about safe gun storage, the less awkward the conversation will be, said [Brady Campaign’s Jennie] Lintz…” And we all know that this Brady twit is an EXPERT on “gun safety”, since she does not own any and has probably no clue about how to handle a gun safely.

    “…the number of children dying from gun violence has been falling as well. But progress is relatively slow, advocates say…” Of course, the “advocates” are lying by omission [again] in this statement. “Children” (meaning anyone up to 24 years old) dying from “gun violence” (notice that isn’t called “criminal acts with guns”) has been decreasing steadily over the last 20-30 years, even with massive increases in gun ownership by honest Americans. And the actual numbers of ACCIDENTAL gun deaths among children has declined steadily during the same period.

    “The CDC reports that for 2010 (the latest year available), one single six-year old died from a gunshot. For all children younger than 10, there were 36 accidental gun deaths, and that is out of 41 million children. Perhaps most important, about two-thirds of these accidental gun deaths involving young children are not shots fired by other little kids but rather by adult males with criminal backgrounds. In other words, unless you send your child to play at a criminal’s home, she is exceedingly unlikely to get shot.

    Indeed, if you are going to worry about your child’s safety you should check into other, perhaps less obvious dangers lurking in the playmate’s house: swimming pools, bathtubs, water buckets, bicycles, and chemicals and medications that can cause fatal poisoning. Drownings alone claimed 609 deaths; fires, 262 lives; poisonings, 54 lives. And don’t forget to ask about the playmate’s parents’ car and their driving records if your child will ride with them: After all, motor-vehicle accidents killed 923 children younger than 10.”
    – John Lott, National Review Online, May 13, 3013

    • Heh. Pete, the ‘if it saves the life of one child’ people never, ever, seem to get it when you ask them if we can ban pools under their logic. I’ve asked at least one person at work who was parroting the ‘if only one child is saved’ logic. They stared blankly, then said ‘but its a pool’.

      • Yep, and THEY (or their friends) own a pool so it must be OK, right? Ask them if they want to ban high-price kitchen knives and drain cleaners, and you get the same reaction. “I own one, so they must be OK, not like those icky guns!”

  4. How about we also go with the excellent advice from the NRA Eddie the Eagle program?

    If you see a gun:
    Don’t Touch.
    Leave the Area.
    Tell an Adult.

    • If you think that there’s such a thing as a gun-proofed child, then I reckon the rest of the discussion is already moot. Do whatever you want, and good luck.

    • +1 My kids give me more grief about the safety violations (that they think) I make than I catch them out on.

      “Daddy, you’re muzzling your foot!!!”
      “That’s okay, really. It’s in my holster.”
      *skeptical look*

      “Daddy, you’re muzzling everyone that walks by the door!!!”
      “That’s okay, really. Nobody is touching it and it’s in pieces. The barrel is over than and the hammer assembly is in this box.”
      *skeptical look*

      I just wish the counter staff at the local Cabela’s was half as safety conscious as my daughter.

  5. “Fox’s article relies exclusively on advice from gun control groups.”…Uh

    There’s your problem right there…getting all the education about guns from people that refuse to get educated about guns…
    Sounds like a success story in the making!(Sarcasm)

  6. I have no problem asking another parent and I have no problem with being asked. You cannot fix your dead child! I do not care who I offend, I will do everything in my power not to have to burry my daughter, just so no one gets offended.

  7. “and the number of children dying from gun violence has been falling as well. But progress is relatively slow, ”

    Well it’s already about as close to zero as one might expect in a country of 300,000,000 people, so yeah getting it lower will be slow. It’s not easy to reach less than a hundred people in a population this size when they don’t think they will be in that hundred.

    Don’t get me wrong, its a noble goal, but for some reason it smells like “we must do more,” and “common sense” are being chambered for the next volley.

    • One can do a lot of harm in the pursuit of doing more.

      Everything has a price. Everything. It may be an explicit price tag, or it may be an implicit cost in terms opportunity cost. What opportunities we forego, because time and resources are scarce and cannot be applied infinitely to all things, constitutes a thing’s opportunity cost. Time spent on TTAG is time not spent cleaning the garage. The opportunity cost of that trip to Disney World is the trip to Hawaii that has to wait until next year. And so forth.

      Those opportunity costs are not uniform, though, and why should they be? People value things differently and even explicit prices vary. Assuming a standard unit of benefit, though, as in “one child’s life”, there are more and less expensive ways to obtain that benefit. Pursuing a more costly route to saving a single life necessarily means overspending on that saved life, to the point of costing more in other lives lost through life-saving opportunities foregone.

      If a given scenario, such as saving those last few lives through draconian gun safety regimens, distracts us from attending to more cost effective safety measures that would save even more lives for the same amount of resources, then that old “for the children” saw starts to ring hollow.

  8. Well it’s good to see them kids in the graphic know enough not to have their grubby little fingers on the triggers, and the flower and peace sign on the boy is a nice touch. Say, are those smoke grenades on his waist?

      • Ima gon go wid smoke; he’s about to lay down some smoke to cover the chick as she low-crawls to Dad’s liquor cabinet. He’ll cover with the AR and later they jump in his ride, cruise downtown and light up a blunt.

        Let’s face it; we’re dealing with a babyish adult mindset in this country/culture now that is just about impossible to reach with the ordinary tools of reason and common sense. The women are shrewish harpies intent on total control of everything while the menfolk are castrated and dress up like Peter Pan in baggy saggy shorts and grubby 4XL tee shirts, displaying really fascinating but inscrutable ink all over themselves. And this is across class and economic levels.

        It does not bode well for any confidence in the future or yet another generation of kids.

        • Yeah, it never “bodes well” when a newer generation is somewhat different than previous ones. /s

  9. “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.””

    You nailed it right there. I remember some years back when 4 kids came over to play with my daughter. I knew the kids and I knew their families and I said no. My kid stayed home totally angry at me for saying no, until learning 4 hours later those kids were all sitting in the back of a police car under arrest for trespassing, breaking and entering an empty house trailer, and the 17 1/2 year old boy for getting naked with the 14 year old girl. Tough being a parent, because I am not my kid’s friend who will always say yes, I’m an authority figure that has her safety and best interests in mind at all times, even when she disagrees with me. I often remind her that I’m 30 years older than her and “know stuff” that she doesn’t know.

  10. “I often remind her that I’m 30 years older than her and “know stuff” that she doesn’t know.”

    How’d this work out for you? I tried that line with our daughter more than once and got the infamous “And???”

    She’s grown now but evidently thinks me having guns in the house is “sick”: but keeps her trap shut about it when she visits.

    You do the best you can….

    • How did that work out for me? Honestly hit and miss. I can tell her that I know what it’s like to be beaten so bad that I hoped I would pass out, I know what it’s like to sleep outdoors with no food, or water or enough clothing to stay warm and other situations to avoid if at all possible. I guess it depends on the context, apparently some of what I said did get in there, she is 27 now and never been arrested, beaten, or a crime victim yet. She knows how to avoid being in stupid places with stupid people doing stupid things. But she still sometimes acts like I’m some old codger that is clueless about the world. Yep as you said, we can only do the best we can.

      • I had told our daughter some of, and mind you, just some of, the horror stories I’ve had over half a century of living and she later told her mother “Oh he’s just talking about what a hard life he’s had” dismissively. As if it all meant nothing whatsoever.

        We shall see; so far she hasn’t been beaten or arrested or assaulted (she’s 5’10” and over 200 pounds and rides a bike) but yep, she has been robbed; her bag was pilfered of her wallet, cash, etc., while it was under her seat at the movies up in Montreal, where she goes to school. As the years roll by, and they roll by faster and faster, I’m fairly certain some of my fossilized stories and knowledge may yet ring a bell with her.

        Won’t be heading out to the range with me anytime soon, though…

  11. I still remember when I was about 6 and my step dad took me out into the pasture, he set up a watermelon in front of a backstop and explained that I should never point a gun at anything I wasn’t willing to destroy. he then explained that destroy meant forever. He then shot the watermelon with a .357. Afterwards he told me to imagine if that had been one of my friends and I was ‘just playing’ and that my friend would be dead. He used the family dog as an example of what dead forever meant. Needless to say, I quickly became very conscious of where I was pointing a gun. Good habits start early.

  12. “Substitute the word “trust.” Because it’s the child that may put your progeny in danger, not the parents.”

    Yup… this x1000

    The fence around the pool does nothing if the kid you are visiting habitually ignores his/her parents and opens/ climbs over the gate. When will anti’s realize that feeling safe does not equate to being safe and take some personal responsibility for a change. A kid that causes problems in school, ignores his/her parents, generally gets into trouble is probably not a good influence on your kid, even if the house is made from padded walls and the most dangerous implement in the whole place is a spork. Unruly children can be (not always) an indicator of how responsible the parents are. It can be a sign that at the very least they don’t always pay attention, not a good environment to send your own into.

  13. Well, my daughter is older than many of the commenters on this site, so she’s no fun anymore and I don’t have to worry about what happens when she’s on a play date.

    But when she was little, I was more worried about whether there was Elavil, Xanax or phenobarbital in the house she was visiting. ‘Cause some of the mommies were legally drugged up to their eyeballs all the time. Guns were the least of my concerns.

    Nowadays, it seems that the moms are demanding action and drugs instead of drugs alone.

  14. Not a bad original article, overall, although the exclusive reliance on Brady and the lie that only a few states have laws penalizing negligent owners were shortcomings.

    It’s foolish to depend on any single approach to firearm safety, though, whether to the exclusion or ridicule of other methods. Your special little snow flake is not perfect, no matter how many times you’ve taught them the rules or taken them to the range.

    Asking a parent about their safety habits is perfectly legitimate. If nothing else, it puts them on notice that you’re watching and aware of the importance of safety. That kind of peer pressure has value and can elevate another’s performance, even if they lie up front about being super safe.

    Relying on your own indirect observation skills and judgment of character, like you’re some kind of FBI profiler on a primetime procedural drama, is begging for the consequences that befall overconfident (read: negligent) gunowners every day. Exactly the opposite outcome you’d sought.

    • Exactly: it’s a security issue. Who knows who they might be blabbing to and where the information might go. It’s none of their business.

      • Damn straight. The highest probability gun security issue most of us face is being targets of theft. Guns are portable and worth a lot. Second to that is being targets of discrimination.


  15. The irony here is that, while their intention in pushing people to ask that question is to surface the gun owners in the neighborhood so they can be socially sanctioned, it’s more likely to mark the people asking it as lefty loons and busybodies that won’t be invited over again.

    • You nailed it! Demanding information that’s risky to give out anyway, which is then used to ostracize those who admit to owning guns, & which sentences them to pariahdom and being regarded as “just not our kind of people” hasn’t a tinker’s dam to do with the safety of one’s children.

      Read up on Amitai Etzioni & Josh Sugarmann on how to marginalize gun owners. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode with the small town full of creepy people.

      Citizen disarmament remains the goal, not child safety.

  16. Ah the mental brady bunch, still pretending theyre not out for everything that could possibly go bang and worrying about “safety”. I guess some things will never change.

  17. Well safety of all kinds is a very important. As is gun safety. The problem I have here is that the people that are screaming the most about gun safety are usually the people that know NOTHING about the safe handily and storage of firearms. They’re most often loud mouth anti gun a-holes trying to convince everyone their shrill cries of ‘for the children’ actually have anything to do with actual safety or children.

  18. its a simple fact that not everyone cares about their children the way they are supposed to. Many people will intentionally drop them off at strangers houses, most likely in the back of their mind wishing something would happen to their so they can be rid of them. and then they could just play the grieving parent for a few years and then act like it never happened.

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