June 20, 2014 at 8:16 AM ET
Do you have a gun in your home?
It's not an easy question to ask, and some parents may have difficulty bringing up the topic before a sleepover or playdate, but it's something every parent has a right to know — and the answer may just save a child's life.
“This is a safety issue,” says parenting expert Jo Frost, formerly of the television series "Supernanny." She's from England, where gun laws are much stricter than in America, but she says the issue is not a debate over personal views on gun ownership. “Americans have a right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. And parents have a right to ask questions.”
We've all heard stories about gun accidents in the home, and we want our children to be safe. So what's the best way to broach the subject ?
Frost recommends that parents be straightforward and honest. For example, they could say, "I just want to ask if you if have guns; I’d just like to know the answer to that question." If the answer is yes, a good follow-up question might be: "Is the gun safely locked away?" It's then ultimately up to a parent to decide what to do with that information — and whether to allow their child to visit that friend's home.
Frost doesn't view the questions as an indictment on another parent's gun views so much as a way to check that our kids are in a safe environment, just as parents of kids with food allergies might ask what snacks will be served on a playdate.
“We wouldn’t send our kids to some place where we don’t know the parents,” she says.
Another option is to be the first one to bring up the topic. For example, a parent might say: "I just wanted to let you know that we live in a gun-free home" or "I just wanted to let you know that I own a gun but it's always kept in a locked cabinet out of reach of children."
“It’s like anything else. The first couple of times you mention it, it feels awkward,” Frost says. But after some time, it is easier to bring up.
“Rule number one: Guns are not toys," she says.
“We can be casual, we can be frank, we can be honest. You just can’t go wrong when you’re honest. If somebody’s offended by that, it’s really quite too bad.”