Au Pairs and Guns in Your House: Rules, Principles, and Having the Conversation

by cv harquail on June 15, 2013

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?

Yeah, I know you all think I’m an uptight freak already, what with the phone answering script and the emphasis on manners.

And yeah, I ask people about guns in their house.
gun safety, au pair advice

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 [6]. 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

Image: Safety First, AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by sldownard


PA AP Mom June 16, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I am happy to hear that I am not the only one who is “paranoid” about guns. We live in rural PA where hunting is very common but really no one in our close families owns a gun.

We have friends with guns and I am fanatical about asking before my kids are allowed to play at their houses, or especially stay over unsupervised.

I would never leave this task up to our AP because it’s just too important. If she forgot and something happened, how would I feel? I don’t think I would ever be able to forgive myself for not checking. Also, in the countries our APs have come from, guns are not common at all. People only have them if they are police officers or something similar. It would be easy for her to not ask.

FutureBrAuPair June 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

How about before the match? Do you think the au pair should ask the host family she’s talking to if they have guns at their house?

Emerald City HM June 17, 2013 at 11:40 am

That might depend on how you feel about it. I personally would be uncomfortable living in someone else’s house if they are one of the 30% that keep guns unlocked and loaded. However, I’m perfectly comfortable staying at my father in law’s house where he has rifles on display, but no ammo for the display ones.

Emerald City HM June 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm

My comment here now seems really out of place without the question it was tied to…

Gianna June 17, 2013 at 9:47 am

It would be a good idea for the agencies to include this on their application forms as well: do you have any rifles or handguns in your home ? My agency requires that we provide a valid driver’s license number and asks if anyone living in the home has a substance abuse problem . They also ask auapairs if they have a history of mental illness or depression. Why should this question not be asked ?

Emerald City HM June 17, 2013 at 11:34 am

We aren’t gun people. I do need to think about what I need to be asking other families before playdates. I would also not leave this up to the au pair as responsibility, she might not directly talk with the parents themselves at a play date anyway (saying it’s another host family) and I don’t expect her to know what to ask nor what acceptable answers are for us to allow our girls to go over there.

Momma Gadget June 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm

When my eldest invited a friend over for his first play date, I was shocked when the mother called me to ask if we have guns in the house. I was so surprised! We are not hunters or “gun” people at all. It never even occurred to me to ask this question… But I have asked it ever since!

Angie host mom June 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I don’t ask.

My children know to report but not touch a found, unattended gun – and to run to the nearest responsible grownup if it is touched by a friend or other child. They know they had a great-grand-uncle that died as a child when shot by a neighbor child who was cognitively disabled.

I’ve worried more about the kids finding one in the park than at a friend’s house. Then again, we live in a very low gun ownership state, and if I think the parents are going to be irresponsible with guns, needles, pools, computer access, prescription medications, etc., I’m probably not going to be having a playdate at their house.

MidAtlantic Host Family June 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm

I completely agree with Angie. I randomly quiz my kids on the safety town rules about guns and it is amazing how well they retain them.

As to the second, paragraph, I also completely agree. I believe it is the parent’s responsibility, not the AP’s, to determine safe location for play dates.

Internet and medications are probably a much more likely issue.

NBHostDad June 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Given that gun ownership in the US is an order of magnitude higher than most of the rest of the world (*), I wouldn’t assume an au pair knows much, if anything, about guns, let alone how to handle them safely.

(* The exceptions mostly being several Central and South American countries)

hOstCDmom June 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Those of you HP who own guns– do you disclose this to your Potenial AP when matching?

CA Host Mom June 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm

No, but it’s not a deliberate omission. I just never thought to mention it.

We aren’t hunters or “gun people” really, but I was a deputy sheriff and I have owned a handgun (for protection) since I was 23 years old (when I was hired by the Sheriff’s Dept.) and keep it loaded and locked in a safe in my bedroom closet.

My children are very young so we have not yet had conversations about guns or other weapons. But I do suppose that it might be a good thing to discuss with our AP.

I know that guns make some people feel very uncomfortable (no matter how safely they are handled). So I’d rather disclose it upfront than have it make an AP feel uncomfortable after they are already in our home.

Comments on this entry are closed.