Monday, March 09, 2009

Point and Shoot

Guns freak me out.

I did not grow up with guns in the house. I asked my dad once why he didn’t go hunting (like so many of our neighbors did) and he said that when he was a boy he shot a squirrel and felt devastated at the loss of life that he’d perpetrated. He vowed that he'd never shoot another living thing. My mother, being raised in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, hated guns too. She wouldn’t even allow my brother to have a toy gun.

My husband didn’t grow up in a hunting and frontier/western culture. He was raised in Florida where guns were used for drive-bys, in drug deals, and to shoot teachers. So he isn’t so much of a fan either.

I’m even like my mom: I don’t want my kids playing with a toy gun. I know, I know, it’s just a toy, but they still give me the heebies. You can make all kinds of rules about ‘you never point the gun at a person, not even in fun, not even if he’s the bad guy’ but we all know what happens when you turn your back. I don’t want my kids thinking that guns are fun, or toys, in any way.

I don’t care if you own a gun.

Go ahead, get a gun. You have the right to own guns. I won’t even tease you on the well-regulated militia thing (much.) Go hunting, we don’t care. I’m under no illusions as to where meat comes from. You can say that your gun is for food storage, not just protection (although I don’t believe that your handgun is to shoot a deer.) I really don’t care about what you do with your guns, up to a point.

You see, my kid is now old enough that he goes over to other people’s houses to play. These people may or may not have guns in the house. I worry about this a lot, so does my husband.

We can have, and have had, conversations with our offspring about firearms. They are not toys. If you find one don’t touch it, leave the house if someone else trying to play with it, tell an adult immediately. You can have those conversations until you’re blue in the face. The mother whose 16 year old daughter, her only child, was killed by a shot to the face by another teenager, who had found the gun and was playing with it, had just had a conversation with her daughter about gun safety. This incident happened last Friday less a mile from where we live. Kids are stupid. They don’t think.

I want to know how to ask people about their guns. Do you ask people about their guns? Where they keep them? How accessible they are? Are they loaded?
I want to know how responsible people are with their firearms when my child is playing at their home.

Have you had those conversations? Would you think to have the conversation? Is it not even a concern to you?

Fig and I are on the same wavelength today: she posted on her own ambivalence about owning a gun and not liking it. So if you want to talk about the merits, or perils, of ownership, go over there.

And just to stave off the ‘c’mon and try it, you’ll like it’: yes, I have fired a gun, and a shot gun, I didn’t like it; they’re just not for me.

And just to stave off the ‘government is coming for our arms and this is how I feel about X piece of legislation’ this is not a discussion about gun control; this is a discussion about the responsibilities of gun owners and non-gun owners.


kiki said...

Unfortunately, this horrific incident (and any accidental kid-shooting-friend incident) is a perfect conversation starter where you can ask these questions. When getting to know the kids and the parents of the kids your children are spending time with, I think it's perfectly reasonable to express concerns and to ask questions to in order to feel more comfortable about leaving your kid at someone their house. Any resonable parent should understand where you're coming from.

I'm disgusted by this tragic, stupid, completely preventable story.

My dad and some of my friends tell me I should have a gun for protection, and I just don't want one. I don't have kids to worry about, but I just don't want it. I'm a pacifist. If that gets me in trouble one day, oops.

rookie cookie said...

We like guns, especially my husband. We own guns so that we can shoot a robber who thinks they are getting out of our house alive. We used to live in Southern California in a busy area. We actually lived on Route 66 (that always made me feel special). There was a real live chance that someone could come into our house. So a gun was the option we chose for home defense.

A few months ago, my husband was robbed at gun point in the next city over (in Southern California). I would have been more at ease knowing he had his gun. Even the police had told him to start carrying his gun concealed because when it came down to it, save your life first and then get a fine for not having a concealed weapons permit (those are near to impossible to get in Southern California).

Both my husband and I know a lot of people don't do guns and that is fine. If I was to have a friend ask us about our gun for their child's safety, it wouldn't bother us in the least. When you want to go about asking about it, make sure to say that you don't have a problem with guns, just them being in your home. Gun owners don't like to hear about the slight chance of their rights being stripped. Just say it isn't your shtick and then ask your questions.

Ryan and Susie said...

First off let me say that I am strong supporter of the 2nd amendment. We just got our first gun for Christmas this year. Ryan and I agreed we should get one soon before they were harder to get with the new administration and all. It's a double barrel shot gun :) We're pretty sure that will keep the psychos off our property. It's locked away in a safe place and we keep the shells in a separate location that only we know. We haven't told our children we have one and I don't plan on telling them until they're mature enough to understand. Don't get me wrong, I am very real with my kids about the power of guns. I don't beat around the bush, sugar coat it or whatever. More so with Ethan because he asks a lot of questions. But they know they are deadly weapons and they are to be respected and handled by the appropriate person.

Fig said...

I think you can and absolutely should have the conversation with all parents who will ever be hosting your boys. I plan to.

My neighbors growing up had a trampoline; they printed up consent/liability forms and made every kid who came over take it home to their parents to sign before we were allowed to jump on it.

Maybe you could do the same thing, in reverse, with guns?

kiki said...

Your last point is a good and important one, rookie cookie.

kiki said...

And to kind of open up a related discussion...

I was home in Louisiana for the second half of February, and I went to visit some friends. They were sitting around the table cleaning their AK-47s they'd just purchased.

I understand having shotguns and hunting rifles for hunting and a gun for protection, but I don't understand the purpose of or the reasons behind owning assault rifles. When I asked why they bought them, they said, "Because we can and because we need to buy what we can before Obama changes things." To me, that just seems like an irresponsible motive and not a good reason for actually owning an assault rifle.

Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

dalene said...

I too am saddened by this tragedy. I used to date a guy who had accidentally shot and killed his best friend and there are two families in my current neighborhood who have had to endure this same kind of unimaginable pain.

Being educated and educating our kids about any of the risks they may face in our own homes and elsewhere (be it guns, ropes, drugs, pools, jacuzzis, trampolines, power tools, etc.) is essential. When they get older I send my kids over to my friend Lynda to hear her lecture about what a lethal weapon an automobile can be when someone is careless or stupid.

Your questions are perfectly reasonable. They wouldn't offend me one bit (we do own a few hunting rifles and I have mixed feelings about them, but we try to be responsible and we supervise their access and use).

But it's important to realize that the older kids get the further their circle of friends extends. The kids in this particular incident were teenagers and the gun owner believed the gun to be locked up and unloaded.

My teenagers sometimes end up places where I haven't had a chance to meet the parents, so in my mind it's a lot more effective to teach my kids what to do in certain situations (just as you mentioned in your post) than to believe I could possibly screen every potential friend.

La Yen said...

SIL has MULTIPLE gun safes filled to the brim, and often has guns on top of the safes, just because it is too much of a pain to put them in the safe. Because kids don't ever climb.

They have also brought concealed weapons (S!) to my home without my knowledge and left them in a suitcase. To be safe.

And when I expressed immense outrage at this I was made into the bad guy. Because they had rights.

I don't know how we are going to do Christmas this year at their house. It was a non-issue when we didn't have kids. Now I think we will get into a major knock-down drag-out. I am getting tired already.

You can tell kids to run to adults, and not to touch it. But under ten or so,it is like telling a hamster anything. A sticky, shrill hamster. Who is going to try to climb onto a gun safe.

MelancholySmile said...

Wow, this really hits a nerve with me. I feel exactly the same way-- I don't like my kids to even play with plastic guns, let alone be around the real thing. I have family members that own them, lock them up, all that stuff, but I still worry.

For now, my kids are not allowed to go to someone's house if they own a gun. We have a similar rule, wherein they are not allowed to go to sleepovers, even with family {my mother was abused as a child, and overnighter's just don't seem wise in light of that.} I know that I won't be able to have such strict control over things when they are teenagers, but I am hopeful that with teaching them gun safety and praying my brains out, they might survive into adulthood.

Nemesis said...

Oh man. I never even thought about this as something I would need to be aware of, but hi, obviously it is. How DO you start a conversation like that without sounding offensive? "Hi, are you an irresponsible KILLER?" I like what Dalene said about how it's important to know about ANY of the risks that your kids might run into at their friend's house, like swimming pools, trampolines, etc. Then it's not like you're just singling out guns (or gun owners).

Nemesis said...

And Kiki, I absolutely have thoughts on the assault rifle thing. They start with "red" and end with "neck."

I'm not sure what problem people feel like they're going to have which only a MILITARY WEAPON can solve.

ClistyB said...

My sister was asked whether or not there were guns in the house by a prsopective playdate's mom. Our kids were preschool age and we thought it the rudest, most ridiculous question.
Were done having kids and our current ones are school age now. And for some reason, I don't think it is such a ridiculous question any more.
If I were to give you any advice I would say to just ask your question in a self deprecating manner, "You'll think Im crazy for asking this, BUT..."
And then stress how important the subject is to you. And if you still dont feel good about it, then I guess you just have to suck it up and become playdate-central.

Sue said...

I don't know what happened to my comment, arg. We have guns, but we keep them in a biometric safe. DH used to be a cop, and he doesn't feel comfortable without one on the premises.

Scary that I've never thought to ask my kids' friends' parents. I need to do that.

hmaynard said...

I don't tend to be much of a commenter, but I felt compelled this time, as I feel so much the same way you do - didn't grow up with them around, get freaked out at the idea that one might be anywhere near me. And I live in the South, where SO MANY people have guns.

I think you can ask people about guns in their home, but I'm not sure you'd get a straight answer. I think people tend to subscribe to the "won't happen in my house" attitude. They think that they, and their children, know gun safety. But I'm not sure there is such a thing as gun safety when you're talking about children because, like you said, they often don't think. And I know lots of people who buy guns specifically for their children (7 & 8 year old children). So I don't know how you even begin to deal with that.

Michelle said...

I'm with you-- I absolutely detest guns. I'm a redneck Republican in (almost) every other way but I'd like to destroy every gun on the planet. And that stupid saying: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Totally inane.

And my dad sounds a lot like yours. :)

~j. said...

"This is kind of awkward, but I need to ask you a question. You know that my mom is a nurse, right? Both she and my stepdad, who is a Physician's Assistant, work in Emergency Rooms in New York. I get a phone call from my crying mom every other week after one of her shift begging me to not let my kids be around guns, and even though I think people should be able to own a gun if they choose, whatever the reason may be, I need to ask you if you've got guns in your home."

Fig said...

Kiki, my brother-in-law has an assault rifle and wants more of them.


I hate to simplify people or make them one-dimensional or perpetuate stereotypes, but in his case it very much boils down to one thing:

Boys like toys.

The bigger and badder, the better.

He's not stupid, in his defense. I like him a lot, but we have very different taste in toys.

~j. said...

Or someping like that.

Oh, a note on yen's SIL: Those suitcase guns were next door while my kids were over there playing, again, unbeknownst to yen or myself. Devastation for yen and myself ensued. Sheesh. Also, said SIL named her son after a gun.

Shawn said...

Oh, great, so now this is something else that I have to think about when my son goes to someones house...

My son thinks that he wants to be a spy---its cute now, but the whole gun thing scares me all the more! My hubby used to have guns when I met him, but I wouldn't allow them in the house---so he sold them.

So now----we will have to educate Aydan to stay CLEAR of guns---but then again---its scary if you have no control at someone elses house...

Jane @ What About Mom? said...

(haven't read all the comments).

We've lived in dangerous places. In Harlem and The Bronx, we were often questioned by police about shootings taking place next door or across the street. In Florida, our house was shot into: the bullet entered the room my 2 yo was napping in.

I will definitely ask people about guns at their house before my child plays, but I'll also ask about swimming pools and tv/movies shown, etc. This may make me sound like a paranoid mother, but I don't give a crap.

(As I mentioned on Twitter, most people assess risk irrationally and forget that many, many more children die from drowning than guns each year).

I'm not voting against the 2nd ammendment, but I have every right and responsibility to make my kids as safe as I can. And, for me, since I'm not interested enough in guns to invest the time/energy necessary to educate myself, we will never have one in our house (until I become that interested).

The rationale behind having a gun to stave off intruders but then reassuring people that you keep it locked up w/ ammunition in a separate place makes absolutely no sense to me. Do you ask the intruder to wait while you go unlock your weapon and load it?

kiki said...

"The rationale behind having a gun to stave off intruders but then reassuring people that you keep it locked up w/ ammunition in a separate place makes absolutely no sense to me. Do you ask the intruder to wait while you go unlock your weapon and load it?"

I wonder that myself.

soybeanlover said...

Wow, this is going to make me question my mom really carefully. She and her new husband just got handguns and concealed weapons permits. Ok, so they live in Midvale, but still that isn't the hood by any means. I want my boys(and myself) safe from curiosity when we go over there. I'm totally in the "tried 'em, don't like 'em" boat too. I at least feel safe at my sister's house because I KNOW the guns are locked in the gun safe. Grandma is another question, and I plan on bringing it up, thanks for the heads up.

StuTheWise said...

Well, my response ended up being over 1,000 words. So if you need to be bored to death, here's my comment on the matter.

Azúcar said...

I loved Stu's response.

rookie cookie said...

Stu definitely wins. He should get a prize. Maybe a gun.

Tamsin said...

My goodness, NO. Not in my house.

Fig said...

Some comments, including Stu's, bring up an important distinction you can make when you're trying to decide which houses are safe for your kids.

Gun sportsmen, who hunt and shoot targets and whatever, will usually have their firearms stored safely away under lock and key.

People (like me) who own guns for home defense will have them out and accessible. So if you know the neighbors/friends well enough to know which type of gun-owners they are, that might help.

Incidentally, I always hide my gun far away and out of reach when there are kids in my house for any period of time. I unload it before I hide it, and hide the ammo in a separate location, and I don't even let the kids into the room where the gun is hidden.

It is reasonable for you to expect all gun owners to do the same, and if they don't, it's reasonable for you to keep your kids out of their homes.

Shar said...

I think you have a right to ask a person anything if it has to do with the safety of your child. If they get offended or won't answer, I guess your kids won't play there.

As a gun owner, I would NEVER think it's okay to take my gun into someones home without their express permission.

love_suz said...

My husband is in the military...26 years. We have never owned a gun. They freak me out. My kids are teens now, but when they were little I was asked often about guns in our house....military=guns? It never offended me. It gave me the courage to ask as well. Just ask. If the person is offended by you asking about guns in the house, then you probably don't want your kid to be there in the first place.

Rich said...

Trust me I'm a nice person, and I am not saying that people who own guns are bad people...

But guns should not be owned by civilians. I only want them in the hands of the military and the police.

Also, I don't like gun culture. I'm offended every time I read something like "Guns don't kill people, I do".

Brian and Tonya said...

Hi- I found your blog through CJane, and just have to comment on this post (yes, I'm a psycho, scary, blogstalker). My husband and I both own guns. We both have our concealed carry permits. And, if your child ever comes to our house, PLEASE ask about our gun habits. I always want people to be reassured that we are responsible gun owners. We keep our guns locked and unloaded, except when we are carrying, then they are in a holster, hidden, and nobody can grab them. I think it's an acceptable conversation to have with new friends parents. Along with the alchohol, smoking, games allowed, television allowed, etc questions.

heavystarch said...

Natural Causes - 9,848 (over one year of age)
Motor vehicle - 6,466
SIDS - 2,523 (under 1 year of age)
Child abuse - 2,000 (estimated)
Fires - 1,946
Suicide - 1,621 (15-19 years of age)
Suffocation - 1,580
Intentional firearm - 1,242
Drowning - 1,236
Undetermined - 238
Accidental firearm - 174

These stats were pulled from the years 1999-2000 for 0-18 years of age unless otherwise noted.

From a purely statistical standpoint Accidental Firearm death is pretty low on the list. However I think this is a great conversation because it can help parents educate themselves on ways to prevent not just accidental firearm death but look at the more risky behaviors their children may be participating in.
Here's a good place for parents to start reviewing for themselves and their kids on how to be safe.

heavystarch said...

Rich said...

Trust me I'm a nice person, and I am not saying that people who own guns are bad people...
But guns should not be owned by civilians. I only want them in the hands of the military and the police.
Also, I don't like gun culture. I'm offended every time I read something like "Guns don't kill people, I do". (People kill people. Guns/knives/tanks/cars/swords are simply the instruments used. That is not a cultural thing that is a simple fact of human nature. Sickening at times indeed.)


"But guns should not be owned by civilians. I only want them in the hands of the military and the police."

Hey that was one of the policies of Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and numerous other despotic tyrants. Disarm the citizens so they can't fight against a despotic and evil government.

History has taught us that when only the government/police have the firearms the civilians are slaves/cattle to those in power. In the last 100 or so years more Mass murder/genocide has occurred under despotic regimes where disarmament of the civilians was a common theme.

When civilians are disarmed it makes them easier to round up and murder.

Go read "The Black Book of Communism" then get back to me on that wishful thinking of "I only want them in the hands of the military and the police".

Hilary said...

I think I'd have more concerns in UT. However, my FIL has an entire gun room. It's always locked, but guns abound at their house. It's been an opportunity to mention guns aren't toys and we never point them at people, real or pretend (the guns, not the people). However, it is scary stuff. Who knows how my kid would react. Hopfully they'd scream and start to cry. :)

Anonymous said...

Friend: Can Lily come over and play next week?
Me: Sure--she'd love to. Do you have guns in the house?
Friend: Yes, but....
Me: Then I'll come too. How is Friday?

I am the chaperon at all homes where there are firearms. My friends who have guns in their houses also cannot babysit my kids at their house--even for free. If they feel weird about me chaperoning, we can have the kids at my ungunned house to play. If the friends then become weird about how judgmental and anal I am, they can find other friends.

My child's life is worth much more than the minute chance of a gun accident which is much much larger at their houses than at mine.

Emmie {orange + barrel} said...

I only read a few of the comments so I am not sure if someone already addressed this issue, but just because someone comes in your house does not give you the right to kill someone. They have to have a gun to and threaten to kill you. I think a gun as a protection is a huge misconception. Self defense is not a get out of jail free card, you must be threatened with equal force.

I don't like guns, and I love the comment above. One day when I have kids I want to know if their are guns in the house.

The constitution gives you the right to bear arms, and I am not opposed to it, but let's be real people. Do you really need a machine gun? an ozzie? If the purpose is truly self defense, then shouldn't the gun match the remedy?


My husband grew up in a hunting family and our three sons have now grown up in a hunting family. We have numerous rifles and shotguns in our home under lock and key. Each child was taught how to properly handle AND respect guns.
Our boys enjoy hunting and target practice with my husband, and they know how dangerous guns are, and when it is appropriate and inappropriate to be in the company of someone with a gun. Does this mean some little jerk friend won't find his father's pistol some day and cause a horrific incident? Probably not. I just hope that the knowledge we have given our children, including the news stories of stupid accidents by stupid people fooling with guns, has left them with enough sense to remove themselves when danger presents itself.
Is that enough? I honeslty don't know, but I certainly pray that it is.

Ryan and Susie said...

I find it interesting that we continue to ignore the facts that Heavystarch has given us above. You can do what you want with your kids but just realize that most gun owners are very responsible with their guns and keep them under lock and key. In fact, I think you'd be surprised to find that a lot of your friends/neighbors have guns in their houses and you never knew it. Do you assume they're complete idiots too? Leaving loaded weapons around for your toddler or young child to find? I'm not going to go there with teenagers, if you're escorting your teenager to every friends/neighbors house and hovering like a helicopter, well I just feel sorry for your kid. Knowledge is power, teach them about guns, then they'll respect them.

I understand your fear but lets face the facts, if you're going to ask EVERY one of your neigbors/friends if they have a gun, you should also ask if they have stairs, a car, a trampoline, a swimming pool, electronic devices, chemicals in their home because your kids are thousands of times more likely to die from those then accidental firearms.

The media LOVES to cover gun deaths because they're dramatic stories, it's sad that they hardly ever cover the hundreds that die every day from SIDS, car accidents, drownings, falls etc. I think if they did it would give us all a better perspective on this issue.

amelia said...

I just came back to check out the debate and I'm annoyed at blogger because I left a comment on this shortly after you put it up. I even remember leaving it after rookie cookie because I thought " name."

Anyway, it's probably a dead topic now and I can't remember what I wrote. But, for what it's worth, I unwillingly have a gun in my house (it's my husbands...and it's a constant source of arguments between us, he wants it, I don't) and I would appreciate a parent asking me if we have a gun in the home. However, no idea how I'd bring it up with other parents. You have no idea what your kid's friends know about gun safety.

Like your husband, I grew up only hearing about guns used in gang shootings or drug raids. I am terrified of them. Yes, the likelihood of being shot by one is low (this book I'm reading "Unthinkable" says suicides double homicides - intentional or accidental) but a gun is most likely not in your child's control at a friend's home.

Likely said...

guns terrify me. I will NEVER allow one in our home. Gosh, wouldn't you feel nervous all the time??? I would. My husband and I both agree on this, but neither of us grew up with guns in the house. I think I felt safer as a child knowing that we DIDN'T have guns.

I have never even thought about this before -- asking parents if they have guns in their homes.... hmmm...