Nearly two years ago when we moved to Dallas, a friend of mine from overseas asked what I would do about playdates. “What do you mean?” I asked, thinking – what could be so different from Germany? We show up (me with overstuffed diaper bag and sibling in tow, appropriate snacks, a change of clothes, and maybe a cup of coffee for the host mom!!), and let the kids play, right? Well – sort-of. My friend was referring to playdates without mom. Now that my older child was 4 almost 5, she assumed that he’d be invited to parties, and perhaps some after school get-togethers on his own. What she meant was: Was I concerned about gun safety? Would he know what to do if he saw a firearm? If another child showed him one? Would I know what to do or say before I dropped him off? Had I already had a ‘talk’ with my son?
I have to be honest- for about a year- I just didn’t let him go anywhere without me. If he WAS invited somewhere, I tagged along, and I made sure the kids were playing within my sight and never went upstairs to a bedroom or playroom without me.
I know it may be a hard question to think about asking, especially when you feel like you’ve maybe JUST made a new mom-friend whose kid is also nice and gets along with your kid. But I also know that we live in Dallas, Texas. And just by the numbers and data, households here have a higher percentage of legal, firearm owners in them than our former city of residence – Frankfurt, Germany.
Whether it feels strange or straightforward, the facts and figures below are part of the reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics partners with the “Asking Saves Lives” Campaign for gun safety to make sure that where children play, guns are secured:
- 1.7 million American children live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked.
- Every year, nearly 300 children 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else — often fatally.
According to the Asking Saves Lives campaign, which has reached over 19 million households to check on gun safety when children are in the home, suggests the most important thing you can do is ASK. Still feel uncomfortable? Here is a sample TEXT message – perhaps the easiest way to face the situation:
“Hey, Max is really looking forward to playing with Henry today! Couple-a-things: He’s not allergic to any foods, they can definitely play outside (sunscreen in his backpack) and could you confirm whether all firearms in your home are safely secured/locked? Thanks and see you at 3:30!”
“Ella is super excited to see Mikayla! Just double checking that it’s ok to send some sweets over to share, and also are there any unlocked firearms in the home? See you at pickup!”
Another gun safety resource that I find useful for older children (pre-teens and teens) in this type of situation is the BESMART campaign, a subset of the Moms Demand Action organization, which is an organization that “supports the Second Amendment but believes that common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day”.
Being SMART means:
Secure all guns in your home and vehicles
Model responsible behavior around guns
Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
Recognize the risks of teen suicide
Tell your peers to be SMART
SMART adults can protect vulnerable kids by storing guns locked, unloaded and separately from ammunition, and taking steps to make sure children never get unauthorized access to unsecured guns.
I remember as a new mom I would run every worst-case-terrible scenario in my head with the baby: car seat accidents, strollers unlocking and racing downhill into traffic, a choking baby or a sleep monitor that ran out of batteries while baby got stuck in a swaddle— just lists upon lists of terrible and morbid ‘maybes’ due to postpartum hormones mixed with an extreme lack of sleep. Gun safety at playdates is no longer one of those terrible scenarios for me. I am taking charge with a text, and I’m now in control of this aspect of my children’s safety. I hope that by sharing my story and my initial trepidation at how to approach this situation, I will inspire some of my fellow moms (both transplants and Texans) to send a text for extra safety.