Several years ago, I was caught off guard by a question from a parent of one of my children’s friends. Knowing what I did for a living, they wanted to know how the firearms in my home were secured before their child came over to play. Once I processed the question, I was happy to reassure them about the precautions I take and we had a productive conversation.
Later, as I reflected on our discussion, I found myself wondering why I had been so surprised by the question. Shouldn’t it be more surprising, considering the dozens of friends my children have had over to our home, that this was the first time I had ever been asked about the storage of firearms?
As parents, we regularly inquire about the safety of the environment when our children visit a new space. We ask about allergies, pets, and pools. We ask about appropriate entertainment. We ask who will be supervising.
Nationally, 1 in 3 children live in a home with at least one firearm. Despite various safe storage laws regarding children, 4.6 million kids live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun. This tragically results in 8 kids a day who are unintentionally killed or injured by family guns that were accessed by a child. With the prevalence of firearms in our society, asking about their presence and how they’re stored should be as common as our inquiries about swimming pools, animals, and allergies.
Starting the conversation can be awkward for several reasons. For one, it’s not common for this topic to be brought up. Even though I was asked in the past, it was the one and only time. Like many things, increased familiarity and frequency will lead to increased comfort.
That’s the premise behind the ASK (“Asking Saves Kids”) campaign, an initiative developed by Brady United Against Gun Violence in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics. On June 21st – the first day of summer – each year, Brady reminds parents to ask whether there is an unlocked gun in homes where their child goes to play.
The premise is simple, yet the impact is monumental. By normalizing questions about whether there are firearms in the house and how they are secured, we empower individuals and communities to have focused discussions about preventing gun violence and saving lives.
I know these conversations are not easy, especially at first. But the more people hear about ASK and ask about gun storage in the homes of friends, neighbors, and family members, the more comfortable they will become. Visit piedmont.ca.gov/GunSafety for help getting started. There, you’ll find links to helpful tools from Brady United and Everytown for Gun Safety with tips on starting and navigating these conversations.
Tragically, during my law enforcement career I have personally seen the devastating aftermath when an unsecured firearm was accessed by a child. Obviously, it’s a gun owner’s responsibility to safely store their firearm but the data tells us people don’t always do what they should. As parents we should not be left to hope or assume gun owners are doing what they should be. We have the power to inquire and ASK.