DEAR READERS: Today's column is a continuation of yesterday's about the importance of gun safety and parents feeling confident enough to raise the subject with other parents. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am a physician and the mother of four curious, intelligent, energetic boys. My primary job as a mom is to keep them healthy, love them and educate them.
I grew up in a small, conservative, gun-friendly community. My grandfather was a hunter. My friends growing up all owned guns at young ages. Many of them today own guns for hunting or because they are first responders. I don't fear the gun. I fear the person who doesn't respect its power enough to properly secure it.
As parents, we have an obligation to ask parents where our child will be spending time: "Do you have a gun in your home? Yes? How is it stored?" What we should be doing is coaching each other how to ask politely without giving offense. What words do you use? I practiced asking because I think the subject is touchy, but it does get easier with practice. (It took me a long time to learn to do it well.)
Abby, please encourage your readers to think about it and share their experiences and best advice. Over the years, I've developed a multitude of openings that allow me to go from funny to sincere quickly. The ultimate question, however, never varies:
1. "You know, I'm so sorry to be 'that' mom, but since we don't know each other well, I need to ask you about a safety issue. Please understand that my question isn't a judgment -- just something I need to ask. Do you keep guns in your home, and if so, how do you secure them?"
2. "This may be me just being overprotective, but the news lately has me fearful, so I have to ask. Do you keep guns in the house, and if so, how do you secure them?"
3. "I love how well our boys play together! It's fun to see their energy have an outlet. But I have a question before their playdate at your house. It's one that always makes me a little uncomfortable, so please forgive me if this seems forward. Do you keep guns on the premises, and if so, how do you secure them?"
This is simple information-gathering so I can make an informed decision for my kids. I write this because I want all parents to feel empowered to ask these questions, and because I know that my asking prompted at least two moms to re-evaluate and change the way they stored guns in their own homes. -- KEMIA SARRAF, MD, MPH
DEAR DR. SARRAF: Thank you for taking the time to write, and for providing a road map for other concerned parents to follow.
DEAR ABBY: All of the major national health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have defined gun violence as a public health epidemic. The protocol for health care providers is to teach parents to ask about guns when children are going to another home to visit. Please educate your readers that asking is critical. This is a public health issue, not a political one! -- LISA KISER, CNM, WHNP