01/30/2013 02:58 pm ET

I'm Calling To Schedule A Playdate And Find Out If You Have Any Guns In Your Home

Written by Jim Higley

Last week, The Good Men Project asked me to weigh in on a topic they were contributing to which explored parents comfort with talking to other parents regarding guns in homes.

“In all your years as a parent, Jim,” they asked me, “have you ever talked to the parents of your children’s friends about guns in homes and safety issues?”

Candidly, I thought this was kind of a black-and-white topic. How can they make a story out of this? They might as well have asked me if kids should be allowed to eat. Or sleep.

But as I spent a day or so researching this topic, I discovered that it’s not black and white for many parents. It’s downright heebie jeebie way outside a lot of parents’ comfort zone.

And I find that downright interesting.

I find it interesting that some parents feel it’s too personal or judgmental to approach this topic with other parents. But it’s helped me realize that, for me, this is a pretty black-and-white topic. My role in protecting my children to the best of my abilities is black and white. It means I will regularly be put in awkward and uncomfortable situations. It doesn’t mean I have to be rude or inconsiderate. But I do have to be a parent.

When my oldest was a little guy, his best buddy lived next door. And his best buddy’s daddy (a good friend of mine) was an avid hunter. I am not. Perhaps that relationship helped grease my own comfort zone in talking about guns with other parents. My neighbor -- back when our boys were still toddlers -- openly talked to me about how his guns were locked in a cabinet with a combination lock. He also explained the importance of keeping ammo in a separate location (I never knew but it certainly makes sense!).

One-third of the homes in our country have guns. Perhaps in your neighborhood it’s less than that. Perhaps it’s more. But, if this is a topic you haven’t thought much about, you will be surprised to find out who does have guns. I encourage you to have conversations with the parents of your young children’s friends about this. And if you’re still a little intimidated, consider this:

  • Start the conversation in a group of parents. It might be less awkward.
  • When your child has made a friend and you are getting to know that child’s parents, proactively mention safety in your home (and whether or not you have guns). It will get the conversation going.
  • Finally don’t be afraid to be forthright and say, “I’m so glad our children are playing together! My son/daughter and I have been talking a lot about safety in other people’s home and I wanted to ask you about your house. Do you have dogs? Do you have guns?” You get the idea.

Some have said to me, “But I don’t want to offend someone!” To you, I offer the following story about kids and peanut allergies.

If your child has a peanut allergy, I’m guessing you are very comfortable telling the parents of your child’s friends about this safety concern. In fact, I know you tell them because you would never put your child in a situation where he or she was exposed to peanuts and cause serious health problems, right? I’m also sure when you tell parents about your little one’s peanut allergy, they respond with concern and compassion and ask questions, right?

And all of that makes you feel good. You gain comfort knowing that the other parent is responsible and shares your concern for your child (just as you feel responsible for their child’s safety).

So what if, when telling a parent about your kid’s peanut allergy, they brush it off. They say that “peanut allergies are blown way out of proportion” and that you shouldn’t worry so much. I’m betting your radar would go up. And you probably would develop an opinion about how safe your child might be in that home.

And it likely guides your thought process the next time your son or daughter gets invited over to that house to play.

Get the conversation going with other parents about guns in home, won’t you. 99% of those parents will welcome a thoughtful conversation; most gun owners understand safety concerns and will respect your asking. Be considerate. This is not the discussion to get on a soapbox and preach all of your thoughts about our country’s gun laws. This is a discussion about how we, as parents, work together to keep kids safe in our respective homes.

And if you run into anyone who is offended and thinks differently about gun safety in the home, remember my story about peanut allergies.

Also From The Good Men Project:
Trying to Keep Kids Safe in a Gun-Obsessed World



WATCH: Kids Read Letters About Gun Control