“Do you have a gun at home?” That is a very personal question, and believe me when I say I wholeheartedly embrace your right to do as you see fit with gun ownership, a constitutional right in America. And don’t feel the need to answer, as honestly, it’s none of my damn business. But that question is food for thought, and I love few things more than making people think.
The first time that question was posed to me was in my pediatrician’s office, just day’s after my oldest child was born. It was shocking, honestly, and frankly, kind of abrasive. “No,” I answered, and the doc moved on to other questions like do we have a carbon monoxide detector or do I smoke cigarettes and where do we store our cleaning supplies.
Later, eight years later, actually, my pediatrician still asks the same questions with every visit. It no longer shocks me and it doesn’t feel abrasive. As I got to know him better I have come to ask him about his questions and why he keeps asking them, specifically the gun question. He is a kind and gentle doctor, passionate about child care and well being.
Our discussion was not one about gun control or politics or NRA. Our discussion was about child care and safety. He asks the gun question, repeatedly, just in case something changes, just in case we purchased a gun, just in case we don’t know about gun safety around children.
God love him. I can respect a doctor like that.
I heard a report on NPR within the past year that some folks in Florida were trying to make a pediatrician’s ability to ask that question illegal. Can you imagine? Someone wants to make it illegal for a doctor of children to work with parents to ensure the safety and well being of his or her patients. That same law would make it illegal for a psychiatrist to post that question to a patient with mental illness. As a former clinician, I know full well that when a patient is suicidal and you have an oath to protect said patient from harming himself or others, you sure as hell want to know about that patient’s access to guns.
What in the Sam Hill are we doing, people?
People can say it is not a gun issue, that it is a mental health issue. You know what? I agree that our mental health system in America is broken. BROKEN. Like many families in America, mine has been more than touched by mental illness. I am really quite aware of how little support there is for the people we love who deal with mental illness. But for the same camp of folks to shout off the rooftops every time there is another gun crisis in America that the real issue is mental health and then turn around and work actively to tie a psychistrist’s hands from assessing a mentally ill patient’s access to guns? Hell freaking no. NO.
Yesterday, on my personal Facebook page, I posted a salute to teachers that basically gave them props for not only teaching our kids, but teaching them while dealing with every social ill our children deal with (poverty, drugs, hunger, abuse, negligent parenting, etc.). Now, it seems, the social ill that teachers are increasingly forced to deal with are guns and violence in their classrooms. Never in a thousand years would I have thought that my innocent salute to folks who are under appreciated would be met with disagreement, but sure enough, yep, folks somehow managed to disagree with my salute to teachers.
Boggles my damn mind, I tell you.
I am all for live and let live and it is not until we listen to those who disagree with us that any progress is made or any middle ground can be found. So I listened and considered the comments that were popping up on the thread. Lots had to do with the issue being mental health and not guns, some blamed poor parenting, a few suggested that box cutters were just as lethal as guns and should we ban box cutters and butter knives, too?
You know what? Despite my whole live and let live mantra, fuck that. You heard me. Fuck. That.
Here I am today saying I don’t care if you have a gun or not. It is none of my rootin’ tootin’ business. But I am begging of you, pleading with you, that if you do have a gun at home, please treat it responsibly. That means your kids do not have access to it. That means that the bullets are stored separately from the gun. That means that the weapon itself is kept in a locked box, unloaded, and out of reach of a child’s hands.
These guidelines do not come from me or my pediatrician. Google “gun safety with children” and you will see a pile of gun advocates who stand by the same guidelines. These guidelines are nothing more than good parenting, safe parenting, responsible parenting.
It is not okay for an eleven year old to have access to their father’s gun. That is a problem. It is not okay when a two year old accidently shoots herself in her face. It is not okay when a four year old shoots and kills his little brother with the loaded gun that was left on the bed. It is not okay when a child who shoots and kills a teacher then himself is referred to in media reports as the “gunman,” because he is not a man, he is a child, but nobody ever refers to a “gunchild.”
None of that is okay. And all of us should have a problem with it. Truth is, many of us don’t.
Here is my new theory about guns and violence and legislation. We all know what a bunch of yahoos work in Washington D.C. They can’t manage to sit across from one another amicably let alone pass effective legislation on such a hot button issue. Let’s leave Washington and politics and legislation out of this discussion, agreed?
Instead, each of us, right here and now, whatever way you feel about guns, let’s make a pact to practice gun control at home. For some of us, that might mean no guns. For others here, that might mean reviewing our handling and storage of guns. Case closed.
It can be as simple as that.
As for the other stuff, whether or not doctors should be allowed to enquire about guns in the home, or what leads an eleven year old boy to shoot to kill, well, those are things we can not address right here and now. But gun control at home? Yep. We can do that — each and every one of us — no matter where you stand on the gun issue, we can tackle that one right here and right now.
We start with this question: Do you have a gun at home?
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