I remember the first time my baby was invited to someone else’s house for a playdate, without me but with my au pair. The other child’s au pair had extended the invitation, but I called the other parents myself just to check in.
I asked them all the usual questions– what time, where, allergies, any mean dogs, etc. And then I asked them the hard question:
Do you keep any handguns or shotguns in your house, and if you do have guns are they stored in a locked gun case?
My nuclear family has no guns in the house, but my dad’s siblings are all hunters. At their homes, there are hunting rifles. My uncle is a state trooper, and there are hand guns in his house. All of us know there are guns in these houses, and all of us know that the guns are kept in a gun safe.
As far as I know, only one of our family friends has guns in their home. In a safe. In the attic.
How do I know? Because. I. Asked.
Why did I ask?
Because stuff happens, and I don’t want it to happen to anyone I love.
Help Protect Your Au Pair and Your Kids
If the adults in your family have handguns or hunting guns, you should have a talk with your au pair about it. Tell him/her that there are guns, that they are off-limits to him/her, and that the guns are locked in a safe.
If you live in part of the country where other people are likely to have guns, either hunting guns (Vermont?) or handguns (Texas?), talk with your au pair about the possibility that there might be guns in the homes of au pairs or other kids that she visits.
Keep in mind that about half of gun owners do not keep their guns locked away (either in a safe or with a trigger lock). A full 30% of gun owners keep their guns loaded as well as unlocked. Even when and where gun ownership is legal, not every gun owner stores their guns in a manner that keeps them out of the hands of others. Therefore,
Establish a protocol with your au pair for keeping him/her AND YOUR KIDS safe from guns.
Discuss how you want to handle the ‘gun status’ of a home that your child/ren and au pair might be visiting:
— Do you want your au pair to ask families s/he interacts with about the ‘gun status’ of their homes? OR
— Will you personally check the ‘gun status’ of a potential playdate’s home?
— Will you teach your au pair to walk out of a house where people have guns but do not lock them away?
— Will you teach your au pair to walk away from any situation where a host parent or other adult is handling a gun for any reason?
If your family has rifles or handguns, and kids, you probably have the guns locked away.
— Talk with your au pair about the guns you have in your home.
— Explain to your au pair the safety precautions you and other adults in your home take, when handling the guns you own.
— Perhaps too obvious but, don’t allow your au pair to handle any of the guns in your home.
— If you live in a state where people can carry guns in their cars or trucks, put these guns in a ‘mobile’ gun safe, keep them unloaded, and hide the key to the safe.
Many people who own guns are responsible. They treat guns like the lethal weapons they are, and are scrupulous about following gun safety procedures.
However– not everyone acts responsibly, and sometimes people forget.
Guns in a home are a statistical accident waiting to happen. Reduce the chances of these accidents by following gun storage guidelines if you have guns in your home, and by assessing the gun safety of the homes your au pair and kids visit.
Finally, DONT ASSUME that your au pair knows what to do with a gun, or what to do if s/he sees that someone has guns in their home. Just because s/he’s seen people on TV use a gun doesn’t mean s/he will even know how to move it out of the way safely.
Coming up: A post for Au Pairs: How do you feel about guns in your host parent’s home?
See Also: Keeping Guns Away From Children The New York Times
Some facts to note:
More than a third (35%) of homes with children—that’s 22 million children ages 18 and under in more than 11 million homes—had at least one firearm, found researchers in a RAND-UCLA study . But only 39% of these families keep their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. University of Michigan Health System