The other day my first grader came home from school and excitedly told me about recess and how she was hanging out with her girlfriends. Then she said, “My friend told me they have a gun at their house. It’s just in case a bad guy comes in and she can’t see or touch it. So it’s OK, right Mom?”
A thousand thoughts swirled around inside my head. Was it OK? Where did they keep it? What if her friend decides to show her the gun when her parents aren’t looking? What if the parent accidentally left it out while cleaning it? What if there was an accident? What if they try to play with it even though it’s been strictly forbidden? What if it’s locked away like it’s supposed to be? Do I need to start asking parents prior to play dates if they own a gun and if it’s stored properly? The “what if” scenario went on and on in my head.
But back to my daughter’s question.
I was not sure how to answer exactly. I knew the most important topic to discuss here was not my stance on gun control. This is about the safety of my daughter and her knowledge on the topic. I needed to educate her about the dangers and how to be safe in a situation where a gun is present in case I am not there. I explained that our constitution allows us to bear arms, to defend ourselves, our family and what belongs to us. I tried my best not to be the mom who tells my kid what to think. I wanted her to have her own opinions and make her own decisions. I also want her to stay safe and to make good decisions while she is away from me.
I then tried answering her question by reminding her how all families are different. Some families choose to protect themselves with guns, while others rely on security systems, dogs or other weapons. Some families just trust the goodness of humans and do little to protect themselves. I told her that it sounded like her friend’s family believes that having a gun in the house is the best protection. They did the right thing by informing their children about it and explaining the safety rules. I told her as well that if she ever sees a gun, she needs to leave the room immediately to find an adult that she trusts. I let her know if an accident happens with a gun, it would be very bad and possibly deadly. I reinforced the fact that it’s OK to tell on someone for finding a real gun and playing with it. She could be saving a life by being brave and letting a grown up know.
She nodded as she absorbed the conversation and then asked, “Why do they think a bad guy will come into their house?” I couldn’t answer that. I don’t know the family or their experiences. So I told her that. I let her know that people own guns for different reasons. Some people enjoy skeet shooting, hunting or target practice. Some feel they need the protection. But everyone has different reasons for wanting or not wanting a gun. It’s based on their experiences, their beliefs and their level of comfort. I reiterated that it’s my job to help her make good decisions and that she needs to know guns can be extremely dangerous.
I’m not ready to explain the horrors of Sandy Hook to her even though it haunts me that children her age were the victims. I’m not ready to tell her there are psychopathic killers out there plotting a shooting spree in an attempt to bring attention to their manifesto that has been years in the making. She is too young to know how cruel life can be, but she isn’t too young to understand the certain dangers of guns and how to be safe around them. It’s a fine line keeping children safe while maintaining their innocence, but it’s my job to do just that.
How do you handle gun safety with your children? What would you do in this situation? Please comment below.