Important Playdate Question: “Are You a Gun Owner?”

by: Rachel Sokol
When drop off your child for a playdate or your teen heads to a friend's house, there are certain questions you ask the parents: Do you have rules about screen time? Can we provide snacks or drinks? When should I pick them up? But there is one critical question parents don't think -- or are too embarrassed -- to ask: Is there a gun in your home?
Is there a gun in the home

In the weeks following the horrific school shooting in Parkland, FL, gun control has been a hot-button topic of conversation in the media, online and in our own homes. It's a divisive issue, playing out into (sometimes ugly) debates.

Still, guns and gun safety is an important consideration for all parents. And it goes beyond your own home.

If you own a gun, no doubt you keep it locked up in a safe place, with the proper gun locks installed and the clip emptied. But do you know how the parents of your kids' friends store their firearms? Do you even know if they have firearms in the home?

If your child is invited to someone’s home for a playdate or sleepover, and you have concerns about guns in the homes of others, how do you handle the situation? It's a tough topic to breach, especially with parents you're meeting for the first time.

Dr. Jenn Mann, a Beverly Hills, CA-based psychotherapist, mother and author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids talks about responsible gun ownership, and how it affects families.

Just Ask

"Don't be afraid to be direct -- children's lives are at stake." -- Dr. Jenn Mann, Phychotherapist

“It can be hard for parents, especially moms, to ask other parents, ‘Do you have a gun in your home?,’ especially since we are trained to be polite, but you have to be an advocate for your kids,” she says. “I had a client recently who said they didn’t want to come off as rude asking this to another parent, but remember—a responsible gun owner will understand why you are asking them this question.”

According to Dr. Mann, if another parent says they do have a gun in their home, it’s up to you to decide if you want your child over their house, and how comfortable or uncomfortable it makes you feel. Ask the parent where the gun is stored; Dr. Mann says it should be locked away in a safe or locked box.

“Ask the parents if their kids know where the key is, or the combination number to the safe, or if they even know about the gun at all. Don’t be afraid to be direct—children’s lives are at stake.”

More People Ask Than You Think

Dr. Mann herself said she recently asked another parent all these questions. In today’s culture, you’re not the first parent to ask another about a gun in their home, and you won’t be the last.

“Parents have remarkable intuition,” she says. “If a parent becomes defensive immediately, and you have that ‘Uh-oh’ feeling in your gut, take it as a sign that this may not be the best playdate situation for your child. Assess what the parent’s reply is and how it makes you feel. Remember—responsible gun owners, who keep one locked away, out of site from their kids, ‘get’ why you are asking them these questions.”

What happens if your child spots a gun at someone’s home? Dr. Mann says educate your kids on the importance of leaving the room immediately and telling an adult.

If someone’s home has unloaded guns on display, discuss with the children how they feel about it; and again, go with your intuition when it comes to a future playdate or sleepover.

If you're not well-versed in guns and safe storage, check out our guide so you know the right questions to ask.