Guns: A Hidden Danger
"Can Allie come over to play tomorrow after school?" This was the question posed to me outside of my daughterís kindergarten classroom this morning. "Sure," I replied to the mother of my daughterís friend, whom Iíve smiled at routinely and chatted with occasionally for the past four months. We agreed to exchange telephone numbers and addresses and she would take Allie home with her from school the following day.
As I was putting my children in the car it hit me. What? I donít really know this family or where they live. Of course, Iím not going to let her take Allie from school. Surely she is a very nice lady and respectable person. But she is not part of my social group of trusted friends.
The next day the mother gave me her address and telephone number. I told her I would pick Allie up and bring her over after school let out. She probably thinks Iím a nut, but, when it comes to my children -- who cares! My taking Allie there personally gives me the chance to relieve my paranoia (this is why Iím one half of the Paranoid Sisters). I can visit for a few minutes, check out the surroundings and I know exactly where she is, instead of just an address.
It also gives me a chance to ask a question that for most is uncomfortable (me included)... "Do you have any guns in your home?" As parents we are able to see many things that allow us to feel comfortable or discuss them with the parents of our childrensí friends. Items such as a pet or a pool. However, guns are a hidden danger, one that many people are reluctant to discuss.
Cease Fire, Inc. is an organization dedicated to "educating Americans to view handguns as the inherently unsafe and dangerous products that they are, and not appropriate to have in any home." According to Cease Fire, Inc.:
- Every two hours a child (19 and under) is killed with a loaded gun.
- An estimated 1.2 million latchkey children come home from school to a house that has a gun and no parent.
- In the US, more preschoolers died from guns in 1994 than police officers were killed in the line of duty.
This is a subject that canít be taken lightly. If your child is invited to visit a friend after school be sure that you have personally gone to that home and asked that tough question: "Do you have a gun?" If the answer is yes, ask them how it is stored. Then you can decide to allow your child to stay if you feel comfortable. Some guidelines to follow in discussing gun storage with other parents and when educating your child on guns include:
- Firearms must be kept unloaded, in a locked gun safe and the keys put where children absolutely will not get access to them.
- Put ammunition in a separate, locked place.
- Always unload the bullets from a gun and store them in a place locked and away from the gun.
- Donít allow your children to play with toy guns -- children can not tell the difference.
- Donít think your child doesn't know where the gun is hidden in your home -- they most likely do.
- Teach your child to never touch or play with guns. If a friend or sibling wants to show them a gun, they are to leave and find an adult immediately.
- Talk to your child about firearms and their dangers, so they wonít be such a mystery.
- Even if you donít own a gun someone you know might. When setting play dates at other peopleís houses, ask if they have a gun (or if their relatives do).
Cease Fire, Inc. can be contacted at P.O. Box 33424, Washington D.C., 20033-0424 or visit their website at http://www.ceasefire.org.
About the authors: Lisa Carter and Lori Marques are real sisters and California natives. Together, they have five children. Their book, Child Safety Made Easy, is a compilation of three years of research on death and injury to children and is available in English and Spanish. Also known as The Paranoid Sisters, Carter and Marques frequently speak at parent conferences, on radio programs and are resources for newspaper and magazine articles. Visit their site at http://paranoidsisters.com.