“Do you own a gun?” and Other Awkward Questions You Should Ask

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Growing up in Western PA, it was pretty common knowledge that most families owned some sort of gun. Although my dad was not an avid hunter, he had rifles and shotguns and as a child, I knew where they were kept. (Don’t worry, my dad stored his guns correctly.) I had a friend whose dad was a policeman, and it was a common sight to see him cleaning his service pistol while I was over for a playdate. It’s safe to say, all my northern friends and family own guns. In fact, their kids all own guns. I’m not talking about some Red Ryder BB gun. I’m talking about .22s and other hunting rifles. It’s a pretty regular occurrence to shoot your first deer by the time you’re 10.

hunting memes

I say all this to give context to the fact that my mom didn’t really need to ask my classmates’ parents the awkward question: “Do you own a gun?” Fact was, since most families did, the question was unnecessary. But today, with the second amendment such a hot, and divisive, topic, it’s probably not only a good question to ask, but also a necessary one.

As our children grow up, playdates are inevitable, wonderful things. While they are little, it’s common for the mom to stay and playdates are for everyone. But as they get older, playdates become drop-off scenarios. And once they are middle schoolers, “hang out” invitations will probably begin to come from friends whose parents you may not have even met. It’s sometimes hard to approach the subject, but as we are all navigating this parenting thing in a much different time period than our parents (and even our grandparents), there’s no wrong way to ask the following:

“Do you own a gun?”

Gun owners are not going to be shocked or offended that you asked this. Good gun owners will answer honestly and will usually be willing to answer any additional follow up questions to their YES answer.

Here’re a few follow up questions to ask:

  • Where do you keep your gun?
    This is probably the more important question. Is it stored in a gun safe? Is the safe locked? What room is it in? Do your children have access to that room? (And don’t dismiss the ability for littles to climb something to reach something! Top of a clothes closet is still accessible!)gun safe
  • Do you store your ammunition separate from your guns?
    Ammo should always be stored away from the firearm, locked up separately.
  • Do you keep your guns loaded?
    Guns shouldn’t be kept loaded, but you’d be surprised how many people keep them “ready.”
  • Do your children know you have a gun?
    Adults are usually surprised to know that their kids are aware of their guns. I’ve been told many times, “Oh yes, we have a gun, but little Johnny doesn’t even know that, so don’t worry.” Ummm, guess again. I’m absolutely positive Johnny knows exactly where the gun is located. If you’re not ready to talk to your kids about firearms, at least assume they know you own one.

shooting a handgun “What type of gun do you own?”

Even though I grew up in an area of the country where guns in homes were common, it was uncommon to carry concealed handguns. Interestingly, it seems to be the opposite here in Memphis. Very few of our friends own hunting rifles (not many hunt) while almost all of our gun-owning friends have (multiple) handguns. A handgun is a firearm that is easily concealable, can be fired one-handed, and usually has an effective range of no greater than 100 meters. The two most common handgun sub-types in use today are revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. If you are unfamiliar with handguns, it’s a good idea to learn what each looks like, how they work, and where the safety is.

  • Do you actually carry?
    This is one question I honestly never thought about asking until recently. I was talking to a fellow mom of my son’s friend. We were commenting on a news story where a gun was pulled on a mom while she was unloading groceries in a Kroger parking lot. Within minutes into the conversation, my friend opens her purse and reveals her {loaded} pistol she carries –at all times– remarking it makes her feel safe and she has been trained to use it. I was blown away. Not because I’m adverse to guns, but because this was someone that I would never have guessed to own a gun, let alone carry it around in her hobo bag. I wasn’t sure how I felt after. This mom had transported my child before in her van. I had NO idea she had a concealed license and actually used it.
  • If you have moms you carpool with or are transporting your child, do not hesitate to inquire if they carry a {loaded} gun. And if the answer is yes, evaluate your feelings. If it makes you uncomfortable, have an open and honest conversation about discontinuing sharing rides.

  • Do you have a permit to carry a concealed gun?
    Just because you own a gun doesn’t mean you have the right to carry it wherever you want. In TN (and many other states), you first have to complete a training course (these days it’s mostly online), pass it, then receive your certificate of completion. After that, you can apply for the Concealed Carry Permit. If you’re talking to a parent who carries –or has shown you their gun on their body– then it’s a good chance to ask if they actively target practice, when is the last time they shot their gun, and any other legal questions you may have.

gun tucked into a pair of jeansWhether or not you are pro-gun or anti-gun, the reality is, they are a part of our world. Chances are your neighbor owns one, your kids’ coach owns one, heck, the PTO president may carry one to every meeting. Our job as parents is to first be educated, then to teach our kids smart gun knowledge, and lastly, be vocal in asking safety questions. Around 77% of accidental gun deaths happen in the home.

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Originally from near Pittsburgh PA, Lori moved to Memphis in 2009. She has a passion for working with special needs children as an ABA therapist and also teaches swim lessons out of her own pool each summer. Lori is married to Ryan, an archaeology professor at the U of M. Together they have five great kids; Ali (April 2007), Asher (Dec 2009), Kates (Oct 2012), Paige (April 2014) and Gwendolyn (July 2019). Lori loves Jesus, lattes and grocery shopping alone. She's not a fan of getting up early in the morning!

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