On June 21, 2017, the columnist Dear Abby responded to the letter below from the mom of a toddler wanting to know if it’s appropriate to ask about guns in homes. Dear Abby responded saying that would be “off-putting.” The columnist received criticism for her response to the writer, later issuing a statement correcting her advice – but the letter remains online and in print. It’s doubtful most readers saw the correction. This left me wondering how Dear Abby might have elaborated on the offensive nature of the question had she gone with her original gut response.
I am a first-time mom of a toddler. I suffer from (and am being treated for) anxiety issues. I am having trouble finding the balance on gun safety and awareness in other people’s homes — especially if my daughter will be visiting. I grew up in a household where my father hunted and had guns in the house. However, he stored them safely in a locked cabinet and was the only one with access to the key. He also stored ammunition separately. Where do I draw the line? Do I ask everyone whose house I’ll be going to whether or not they have guns? What are the appropriate questions? Do I ask where they are stored and who has access? What else should I ask? Or should I mind my own business? I know the questions won’t be appreciated by everyone because it will seem like I am questioning their judgment.
Dear First-Time Mom in New Jersey,
It is understandable that the topic of guns is a touchy subject to address. One must always keep this in mind. These days are especially uncertain as civil society becomes less civil. One wonders where it will end. I’m sure this would create anxiety in anyone who doesn’t already suffer from anxiety!
Do you ask everyone whose house your toddler will visit if they have guns? By all means no. There are more guns in the United States than people. Assume everyone you know has at least one and knows how to use it without shooting a toe off!
Do you ask where they are stored and who has access? Again, no. Assume they are safely stored and only the right people have access. After all, gun owners are all responsible and would never store them loaded under the bed, behind the couch or in a shoebox on the top shelf of the bedroom closet.
Just because a child unintentionally fires a gun and kills or injures himself/herself or others every 36 hours is no reason to worry your toddler will be shot. These tragedies only happen to other people. Just because guns are the third-leading cause of death among U.S. children has no bearing on the reality of your child’s life.
About 1.7 million American children live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked. Each year in the United States, nearly 300 children aged 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 500 more commit suicide with a gun.
Minding your own business, as you suggest, is the best advice I can give – aside from doing a better job of getting your toddler to listen and not touch things he/she shouldn’t touch! A polite society is a civil society. We do not wish to make others uncomfortable with nosy questions like, do you have guns that my toddler might find when he/she ignores me when I tell him/her not to hide under your bed playing hide-and-seek?
Civility can return with the mindfulness, self-awareness and good manners of people like you.