Parents ask plenty of questions before their children visit other homes. “Do you have any cats? My daughter is allergic to cat dander.” Or “Do you have filters set up on your computer? Our son has been known to stumble onto some websites we don’t want him to see.” “Will you be serving anything with peanut butter? My child has a peanut allergy.” There is another question that parents need to ask, one important enough that it could save a child’s life: “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?”
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence feel so strongly about the question that they created a campaign to encourage parents to ask it. The campaign actually is called ASK, for Asking Saves Kids.
Consider these statistics:
1 in 3 homes with children in the United States have guns.
42% of parents with guns keep at least one unlocked.
3 out of 4 children ages 5-14 know where firearms are kept in their homes.
I know that the question may seem awkward, but it doesn’t have to be if it is asked just like any other safety question about children. I recommend that parents try this approach: “I have a question that I ask whenever my child visits a new house. Do you have any guns in the home? If you do, are they stored unloaded and locked up? Is the ammunition locked in a separate place? My child is just so curious, and I worry about what he would do if he found a weapon.”
You may notice that’s more than one question. I think all of them are worth thinking about and should be answered. This is not about politics, and it is not a judgment of gun ownership. This is about child safety. All responsible owners of guns agree that child safety around guns is important.
Remember, Asking Saves Kids. For more information about the project and news about events, visit AskingSavesKids.org.
Dr. Gary Smith is a Professor of Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at The Ohio State University. He is founder and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
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