Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist on how to talk to other parents about gun safety.

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Q. I have an awkward question. My child is interested in playing at another kid’s house, but I don’t know his parents very well. I am concerned about firearms in the home. How do I politely ask if these parents have guns—and if they do, whether they keep them locked and inaccessible?

C. H.

A. About one in three American households has a gun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 gun-related injuries accounted for 6,570 deaths of children and young people (ages 1 to 24), and nearly one in five injury-related deaths of children and adolescents involves firearms. Gun accidents are a real and catastrophic danger. So despite the awkwardness of raising the issue, the stakes are high.

As I see it, you have a couple of options: One is to host all the playdates yourself, or meet up in a park or some other neutral spot until you get to know the family better (that’s what I would do). Another is to talk to the parents, which is what the American Academy of Pediatrics’ ASK (Asking Saves Kids) program recommends. This is a delicate matter, since you don’t want to imply that you’re more concerned for your child’s safety than they are for theirs. Explain your apprehension carefully: “In the wake of all the terrible violence in the news, I’m worried about guns—I’m sure you are, too. Please don’t take it personally, but can I ask you to reassure me that you don’t have unlocked guns in the house?” For all you know, they have the same worries about you, and you’ll be clearing the air for everyone.

Catherine Newman

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