It wasn’t something John and I thought about right off the bat. Nope, there were other more obvious and urgent ways to protect that new baby we’d been lucky enough to adopt.
In fact, we didn’t actually worry about Jacob playing in a house with guns until he was, actually, playing in a house with guns and he was out of our sight.
It was a day or so before we were to leave Connecticut and move back to the DC area. Our neighbors, the Planters, had us over for a good-bye dinner. It was John, me, Linda and Paul, their two grown daughters and their significant others. The eldest daughter, Jade, had a daughter Juniper, who was Jacob’s age.
All was well for a while. They were nice people. Linda had retired from an insurance company and and divided her time between cooking and playing classical piano.We could hear it whenever the windows were open, all summer long. She was quite good. Paul was a upper end contractor. He was also a hunter.
For some reason that I have conveniently forgotten and for which John will never forgive me, I brought up guns and gun control at one point during dinner. It was then that I learned that our soon to be former neighbors believed that they needed an arsenal to fight off the ” black booted” thugs from the government. The US government. Black helicopters. They thought that the 2nd Amendment guaranteed that he could have any weapon that he government had. Including nukes.
It was at about that time that I realized that Jacob and Juniper were downstairs. They were being supervised by another relative, so I hadn’t been concerned. But the discussion made me a little uneasy.
I knew there were guns in the house, but I no longer felt quite comfortable that these folks were reasonable. I didn’t know where the guns were, whether they were locked away, or left leaning against the wall somewhere accessible to my 4 year old son.
* * *
That was the last time for many years that I didn’t ask about guns in the home of anyone Jacob played with. Even when the parents seemed like they didn’t fear the guv’ment. Even when they seem like normal folks. Liberals, even.
It is incredibly awkward to ask people if they have guns in their house — akin to saying “excuse me, are you an irresponsible parent who would endanger your own child(ren) as well as mine?”
Still, I had to ask. Every time Jacob went someplace new for many years.
I did it by lying through my teeth. To new friends and acquaintances. I shamelessly blamed my husband:
“I have the most overprotective husband” I would sigh. He made me promise to ask everyone before letting Jacob go play … You don’t have guns in your house, do you? Arsenic? Nukes?” I’d laugh, and the other mother or father would laugh too.
And then they’d answer.
“No, of course not,” was generally the answer. And then I was comfortable letting my son go to their house.
One time, though, I did get a “yes, we have guns in our house” answer. I was surprised. You will be shocked to know that I kept an open mind.
That time, my friend Suzanne invited me and Jacob over, and took me down to her basement and showed me where her husband kept his hunting rifles. In a locked, secure gun safe.
If I had learned that the person had guns and did not secure them, their kid would have been welcome to play at our house any old time. But my son would not have been allowed to play there. Nope. Not a chance. It is simple common sense.
Naturally, I felt bad for blaming John. Oh who am I kidding. No I didn’t. It was much less awkward, doing it that way — it made the other parents feel less threatened, less like I thought they were crazy, irresponsible, folks who wanted to kill children. With my way, well, I had the comfortable knowledge that my kid wouldn’t become a statistic. It was worth sacrificing John’s pride for peace of mind. Especially because he still doesn’t know I did it.
Friday, June 21st is “Ask About Guns Day,” sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Because all too often pediatricians are called on to try to save children who are hurt by guns. They know that asking can save lives.
ASK. Because you don’t want your kid (or grandkid or really any kid) knockin’ on heaven’s door, do you? I just had to ask.