Visiting relatives who have guns when you have a toddler
July 11, 2016 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Extended family that I visit (I'm in Canada) and stay with a few times a year have started the application for a "pistol permit" in New York state. I have a toddler who's never met a button that he didn't press or a latch he didn't fiddle with. I know it's unlikely a gun would be accessible during a visit but I've seen the statistics. My gut reaction is to not visit anyone who has a gun (maybe having one locked in a gun safe would be ok) but I don't know if that is excessive. They are buying the gun "for protection" so I am assuming it will be carried and I want to get a handle on my feelings before I discuss it with them. Have you been in this situation? How did you manage it?
posted by betsybetsy to Human Relations (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ask about their gun safe and make them promise the gun will stay in the safe while you are there. If there is no gun safe or they aren't willing to make that promise, don't visit.
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:58 PM on July 11, 2016 [36 favorites]

If you're anti guns and concerned for your kid's safety and yours too, you refuse to stay. As if you're anti non-vaccinators. Don't normalise gun culture. That's how you manage people who make decisions that can directly harm you, and wider society too. Tell people how you're reacting and why. So they know the consequences of the choices they're making. (Credentials- Have personal experience with the non-vaccinator issue.)
posted by taff at 4:59 PM on July 11, 2016 [36 favorites]

I think your assumption that the gun will be carried is a bad assumption. There are multiple ways to toddler-proof firearms. A gun safe is the most obvious line of defense. Personally I'd also feel safe with a combination of trigger locks + locked separate ammunition. If I had my kid in a home where I knew there would be firearms (my home is one of them, for what that's worth) I'd ask for assurances one of those safety measures were taken.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:01 PM on July 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

Just as a thought exercise, are you planning on asking everyone whose home you may visit whether they have a gun? Many people who own guns do not advertise it. Maybe you've already been in a home with guns unknowingly. If you didn't know they were applying for a permit, would you have asked? Is there anything about this particular relationship that is making this an issue?
posted by cakebatter at 5:03 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

It'll be fine if the gun is locked away in a safe. Ask them how and where they store the gun, then decide whether you can visit. They may describe something like what craven_morhead said, or they may just say "it's locked away" in which case you'd need to get a lot more details.

If you feel uncomfortable having the conversation, you can always say your pediatrician insists on it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:11 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For a different perspective, I have a carry permit. If someone were visiting me with a toddler, I would store all weapons off site for the duration of the visit without being asked, and make it clear to my guests that my home is safe for their toddler. I, too, have read the statistics.

If your host balks at this entirely reasonable request, stay elsewhere.
posted by workerant at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2016 [47 favorites]

Best answer: I've often asked people if they have guns in the house and if so, how they keep them away from kids (asking when my kids are going over there, not just for funsies). Nobody has acted offended, everyone has explained what they do, one person texted me photos of their gun safe, and I've learned that a really, really, really large percentage of the people I know have guns in their houses.

It's an awkward question but worth it. My kid isn't allowed to visit on friend's house because of how they store their guns. I haven't explained why to that kid's parents; I'm not asking them to change what they do. I don't voice an opinion, even when I find out that guns are stored on the freaking coffee table.

It's like making sure someone who gives your kid a ride has a carseat they can use; it's a matter of your kid's safety, not a statement on how you feel about the NRA.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:15 PM on July 11, 2016 [30 favorites]

Get a hotel. You'd presumably want the gun to be unloaded and locked up separately from the ammunition. It's unlikely that anyone who has delusions of self-defence would store their gun that way. If you want to tell them why tell them that being in a home with a gun increases the risk of injury or death for all of you, especially the toddler, and you're more comfortable staying in the hotel.

Your pediatrician has no right to insist on anything, so I wouldn't bother trying that. You're just setting yourself up for "just tell them we said...."
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:15 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

(To be clear, I don't have a gun safe. A gun safe would be an acceptable solution for you as long as the gun/s stay there every moment of your visit.)
posted by workerant at 5:15 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have guns and when friends with kids have come over in the past we talked about it. They are either stored with trigger locks + separate ammo or in a safe, and this has been OK with all the people I know.

Its completely fine to ask about this, and see what their safety measures are. A reasonable gun owner should be OK with discussing this and indeed should already have thought through various things. If anyone reacts with hostility to questions/requests, thats probably a very good sign you wouldn't want to be hanging out with them while they are armed.

But lots of people who have guns for protection, probably most people, do not actually walk around their house with a loaded gun.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:18 PM on July 11, 2016 [11 favorites]

Why don't you just ask them how they store their guns, and how they plan to keep your child safe when you visit. You can simply say that, coming from Canada, there is a cultural difference (although, contrary to how we view ourselves in Canada, gun ownership is pretty common in Canada, as are gun deaths), so "please forgive me if this is a faux pas in the United States."

If you are satisfied with the answer, visit. If you are unsatisfied with the answer, do not visit. While it is not nice to experience family disagreements, keeping your kids safe is more important, don't you think?
posted by My Dad at 5:21 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Ask specifically how the gun will be secured -- gun safe, locked case, separate ammunition, etc. We have firearms in our home and they are always fully secured when children visit, and I have always welcomed this sort of question from anyone who might have reservations, particularly friends visiting from overseas. I promise that the extremist, reactionary pro-gun position is truly not shared by all gun owners.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 5:25 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Totally OK to ask. Every gun owner I know takes "keeping tiny fingers far from the trigger" extremely seriously, including the ones who bring their kindergartners on hunting trips. Personally I'd want them to show me the safe and lock it in front of me after showing me that the guns are inside, but I'm also a huge worrier and would only do that because I know I literally wouldn't stop thinking about it otherwise.

BTW as far as I'm concerned it's an issue of being in their home, period. The risk isn't that much bigger or smaller when comparing a short visit with staying overnight - an unlocked gun is pretty much like an uncovered swimming pool in the sense that it takes less than a minute of inattention to bring disaster. Which is to say, I don't think your problem is solved by staying in a hotel.
posted by SMPA at 5:40 PM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Beyond reasonable. I don't have kids and generally sympathize with the whole free range children thing, and this still seems like a no-brainer to me. (I am pretty gun-shy though, and was prepared to demand that a friend and prospective 6-month tenant in my home purchase and use a gun safe for the duration, even without any kids in the house.)
posted by mchorn at 6:02 PM on July 11, 2016

I visited my grandparents' farm many times as a grabby, exploratory kid. The guns were safely managed and it was never an issue. I don't know if it's a universal requirement for all of NY or something done by localities, but a pistol safety training course is required to get the permit in many areas of NY, which will cover how to safely store firearms.

I am assuming it will be carried

That's not necessarily a good assumption.
posted by Candleman at 6:21 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've never had anyone ask, and people with kids visit fairly often, but I keep my guns locked up regardless and would be happy for any parent to inspect the security. My take, as a non-parent, is that anyone who objected to the minimal effort of keeping guns locked up when kids are in the house is probably someone with some other odd ideas about childrearing.

(And I'm someone else with a concealed carry license who never carries a gun, so I wouldn't consider that a guaranteed assumption to make.)
posted by Dip Flash at 6:55 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

My gut reaction is to not visit anyone who has a gun (maybe having one locked in a gun safe would be ok) but I don't know if that is excessive.

If you're just looking for data points and perspectives (and because this one hasn't been expressed so much yet), no, I don't think that's excessive. If I had a kid, I wouldn't let them stay somewhere that I knew had a gun on premises-- actually, I wouldn't already myself, even not having kids. I was told by a friend that his partner kept a gun in her bedroom, and I never went back to visit them at their home.
posted by threeants at 7:21 PM on July 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

I have a toddler and a second grader. We have long guns in the house but no ammunition. We regularly visit my brother who has multiple guns. Some are in fingerprint safes, others are locked in a gun cabinet with ammo locked on a separate floor. I trust 100 percent that they are properly and safely stored. I ask friends if they have guns and how they are stored. I also ask if their kids have been taught about guns. And I talk to our older about guns and what to do if she ever sees one or if a friend ever mentions one, asks if she wants to see one, etc. she understands that they are dangerous.

With my toddler, I know where the guns are at my brothers. She's never near them - they are on a different floor.

I guess my point is that you are making assumptions about how these people will keep and store their guns. Unless you have reason to believe they are irresponsible and/or a liar, I think you should talk to them and see what they say. If you aren't comfortable with the options, by all means, stay somewhere else or don't visit or whatever. But the assumptions seem a bit over reactive to me.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:46 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I grew up around lots of guns in rural louisiana, and gun safety was just a thing people talked about and asked questions about.

It is normal and okay to ask. No sane person would take offense.

I had a friend who had a parent who had an entire secret room (with gun safes inside). He didn't even know it existed until his teens.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:54 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

My gut reaction is to not visit anyone who has a gun (maybe having one locked in a gun safe would be ok) but I don't know if that is excessive

Yeah, it is. Once you start asking you'll be startled how many people you know have guns. I'm in the US in a state where it's easy to get a gun, but still -- they're everywhere, including Canada. I know hippies with guns and punks with guns and conventional people with guns. Politically, they're all over the place; there's no predicting it. Every relative of mine who's died in the past few years has turned out to have a gun or two that we needed to deal with.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:21 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I should have explained why I think a gun might be carried- one of my relatives mentioned they intend to take the gun with them during occasional work in a nearby city and that if threatened they will aim at the attackers leg rather than shoot to kill. Classes do not seem to be mandatory but they said a police officer they know will train them.
posted by betsybetsy at 9:14 PM on July 11, 2016

Best answer: My gut reaction is to not visit anyone who has a gun (maybe having one locked in a gun safe would be ok) but I don't know if that is excessive

Yeah, it is. Once you start asking you'll be startled how many people you know have guns.

Yep. We're Brady voters and donors but we have guns, for reasons that don't matter for purposes of making this point. Point is, a lot of people you know have them, and if you have an inquisitive toddler visiting other people's homes it's a good idea to ask about it and not make assumptions about who might have them or how they might be stored, for better or worse.

[edit - upon reading your update I urge you strongly to not only ask, but make sure that gun is safely locked up if your kid is in that house, even for a visit. Your relative doesn't sound super gun savvy.]
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:16 PM on July 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

[edit - upon reading your update I urge you strongly to not only ask, but make sure that gun is safely locked up if your kid is in that house, even for a visit. Your relative doesn't sound super gun savvy.]

Oh, jeez, yeah, this. There is so much wrong with what they said. I would definitely want to be certain they understood how to secure a gun and why it's important to do so. A person who thinks like this is exactly the type of person who should be taking classes.
posted by azpenguin at 10:56 PM on July 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

if threatened they will aim at the attackers leg rather than shoot to kill

This person has zero gun training and doesn't know what they are talking about. Worse, I highly doubt they are even aware of how ignorant they are. Do not rely on them making sensible decisions regarding safe gun storage.
posted by ryanrs at 11:55 PM on July 11, 2016 [26 favorites]

I would not visit a person who has that little awareness about gun safety and how guns work. It appears that your relative has purchased a firearm with no idea how to use it, no training, and a vague intention to someday learn about the potentially very dangerous item he has brought into his home. I wouldn't set foot through his front door, even by myself. I certainly wouldn't let a child enter his home. Because even if he has a gun safe, I do not trust someone this uninformed to realize, for example, that ammunition is dangerous even without a gun around. I do not trust him to know how to use a gun safe properly, since he hasn't yet had his cop friend show him how (and by the way, any police officer who would offer his own "training" in lieu of a proper gun safety course should be reported to his superiors). I do not trust him to understand what the real dangers are since he thinks "aim for the legs" is a real thing. So no, with your update, I'd cancel this visit entirely.
posted by decathecting at 8:16 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

And I'm not anti-gun. I've taken a state-certified firearms safety course from a former federal law enforcement agent who trains people for a living. I go shooting once every few years, mostly long guns but sometimes handguns. I'm a decent shot. But I wouldn't trust myself to handle a gun in an emergency without someone with some real expertise there to assist me, because I don't have enough experience to feel confident that I'm doing it right and not putting myself or anyone else in danger. And I know just enough to find your friend's comments absolutely chilling.
posted by decathecting at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

In New York State, the registration process for a pistol permit includes a Handgun Safety Course and a criminal background check.
posted by LightMayo at 8:56 AM on July 12, 2016

LightMayo, that varies by county. Some counties don't require a course.
posted by ryanrs at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2016

Because even if he has a gun safe, I do not trust someone this uninformed to realize, for example, that ammunition is dangerous even without a gun around.
I can't think of any unique way that "ammunition is dangerous even without a gun around." Certainly anything a toddler can put in their mouth and choke on is dangerous, but there is plenty of stuff in that category (more below). If there's a unique hazard (beyond "the kid has their own gun to use it in"), I'd like to know about it. Wouldn't be the first mistake I've made...

You should not expect someone that knows nothing about guns and with no training to be a responsible gun owner. And these folks sound like they know nothing about guns (yet, at least).

To agree further with most everyone else, there is absolutely no reason a parent leaving their child somewhere can't ask about anything relating to the child's safety without concern of offending. If you cause offense, oh well--the safety of your child must be your priority and the offense tells you these people aren't mature enough to be trusted with the safety of your children.

As someone who's raised children and who's lucky enough to have grandchildren in my life, I'd be very concerned about various stuff being accessible to little hands, e.g., coins (choking), button batteries (shockingly deadly when swallowed), and pre-packaged dishwasher soap (poison that looks attractive). I've always been surprised by the ingenuity of little hands, to the point of my year-old granddaughters somehow disassembling a child gate and getting a choking-sized plastic-ball handle off. I couldn't have gotten that apart myself.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:24 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

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