Mom sug­gests ap­proach to ask­ing about gun safety

Austin American-Statesman - - THE PLANNER - Jeanne Phillips Dear Abby

Dear Read­ers: To­day’s col­umn is a con­tin­u­a­tion of yes­ter­day’s about the im­por­tance of gun safety and par­ents feel­ing con­fi­dent enough to raise the sub­ject with other par­ents. Read on:

Dear Abby: Iama physician and the mother of four cu­ri­ous, in­tel­li­gent, en­er­getic boys. My pri­mary job as a mom is to keep them healthy, love them and ed­u­cate them.

I grew up in a small, con­ser­va­tive, gun-friendly com­mu­nity. My grand­fa­ther was a hunter. My friends grow­ing up all owned guns at young ages. Many of them to­day own guns for hunt­ing or be­cause they are first re­spon­ders. I don’t fear the gun. I fear the per­son who doesn’t re­spect its power enough to prop­erly se­cure it.

As par­ents, we have an obli­ga­tion to ask par­ents where our child will be spend­ing time: “Do you have a gun in your home? Yes? How is it stored?” What we should be do­ing is coach­ing each other how to ask po­litely with­out giv­ing of­fense. What words do you use? I prac­ticed ask­ing be­cause I think the sub­ject is touchy, but it does get eas­ier with prac­tice. (It took me a long time to learn to do it well.)

Abby, please en­cour­age your read­ers to think about it and share their ex­pe­ri­ences and best ad­vice. Over the years, I’ve de­vel­oped a mul­ti­tude of open­ings that al­low me to go from funny to sin­cere quickly. The ul­ti­mate ques­tion, how­ever, never varies:

1. “You know, I’m so sorry to be ‘that’ mom, but since we don’t know each other well, I need to ask you about a safety is­sue. Please un­der­stand that my ques­tion isn’t a judg­ment — just some­thing I need to ask. Do you keep guns in your home, and if so, how do you se­cure them?”

2. “This may be me just be­ing over­pro­tec­tive, but the news lately has me fear­ful, so I have to ask. Do you keep guns in the house, and if so, how do you se­cure them?”

3. “I love how well our boys play to­gether! It’s fun to see their en­ergy have an out­let. But I have a ques­tion be­fore their play­date at your house. It’s one that al­ways makes me a lit­tle un­com­fort­able, so please for­give me if this seems for­ward. Do you keep guns on the premises, and if so, how do you se­cure them?”

This is sim­ple in­for­ma­tion-gath­er­ing so I can make an in­formed de­ci­sion for my kids. I write this be­cause I want all par­ents to feel em­pow­ered to ask these ques­tions, and be­cause I know that MY ask­ing prompted at least two moms to re-eval­u­ate and change the way they stored guns in their own homes. — Kemia Sarraf, M.D., MPH

Dear Dr. Sarraf: Thank you for tak­ing the time to write, and for pro­vid­ing a road map for other con­cerned par­ents to fol­low.

Dear Abby: All of the ma­jor na­tional health or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics, have de­fined gun vi­o­lence as a pub­lic health epi­demic. The pro­to­col for health care providers is to teach par­ents to ask about guns when chil­dren are go­ing to another home to visit. Please ed­u­cate your read­ers that ask­ing is crit­i­cal. This is a pub­lic health is­sue, NOT a po­lit­i­cal one! — Lisa Kiser, CNM, WHNP

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