I’ll be the first to quite honestly say that I’m not entirely sure where I stand on the issue of more stringent gun control, and indirectly, the new trend of open carry.  My husband is a Detroit Police Officer and I’m generally very used to him carrying his department issued weapon when we are out and about with our happy little family. It’s become so ingrained in our every day life that it barely even registers on my radar any more.   I’m not entirely sure that constructing tougher gun laws will make the world a safer place.  Mostly because we all know that criminals pay not the slightest bit of attention to laws anyway, so making tougher laws will mostly impact only law abiding citizens.

However, as mom of two adorable little boys, I am fixated on the recent rash of shootings, shootings mostly involving children in schools. And I’m as desperate as every other parent to find a way to make sense of the senseless.  To temper the tragedy with a concrete solution to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.  Sadly, I don’t know that there truly IS a way to eliminate this threat from our lives…or the lives of our children.  I fear that many of our kids are numb from an overabundance of facts and statistics, bombarded by violence daily.  Blinded by the idea that guns can’t REALLY kill people because their lives revolve mostly around a make believe world of video games that encourage weapons of mass destruction.  

Yep…I went there!  I NEVER thought I would be THAT parent that immediately links desensitized children to violent video games and an disproportionate amount of senseless violence cluttering their world.  But the moment I became a mom, my views shifted dramatically. For better or worse, now I’m just a mom trying to make sense of the senseless and trying to keep my children safer in an unsafe world.

My husband is a police officer with 18 years on the job in a city fully shrouded in never ending violence.  I have been his “partner in crime” for every single one of those 18 years.  I sometimes suspect that I should have received an honorary badge for my own silent service.  I have listened, horrified, as he described the immeasurable heart break that comes with working a call that involved the accidental death of a child killed by either their own hand, or the hand of an equally innocent child, when an unsecured weapon was discovered.  Senseless!  There is simply no other word to describe it.  This is the ONE single situation that could EASILY be prevented if only the weapon owner had been responsible and secured that deadly weapon.

 I can’t even attribute their lackadaisical sense of logic with lack of intelligence.  I have seen with my own weary, nervous eyes people whom I’d assumed responsible, respectable members of society leave a loaded weapon in a place that they ASSUME is out of the reach of notoriously curious children.  The argument is ALWAYS the same…..”Well, MY kids know NOT TO TOUCH IT”.  Hmmmm…..how simply FANTASTIC for you.  But are you REALLY SURE????  Are you prepared to wager that bet, with 110% certainty, on the life of your child or a young friend of theirs?  Because, essentially, this is a gamble that doesn’t seem logical and could potentially fail with tragic consequences.  But I digress.

The point is, it would be far simpler to blame such tragedies on the minds of simpletons, those who are uneducated or just plain stupid.  But the reality is, it happens far too often and its always the same……the family who says “I never thought it would happen to me”.  

If you own a weapon, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to secure that weapon properly.  Gun locks are minimal in cost and are sometimes given to gun owners free by their local police department.  If you are a parent, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ASK EVERY HOME WHERE YOU CHILD PLAYS if there are weapons in the home and if they are properly secured.  

While the battles rages on as to whether gun laws should become tougher, you can bet your sweet ass that more people than you think are packing heat these days.  Grannies and Grandpas…….PTA moms……that lady with all those damn cats.  You get the point.  Far more often than not, people are scared or being proactive and are purchasing (or possibly stock piling) weapons.  While I’m still not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, it is a FACT thing.  And when they get home, they gotta pack that heat away SOMEWHERE!  Ask where…..ask how…..ASK!  If you offend someone, they probably aren’t doing the right thing anyway and you should NOT allow your child there.  I’ve talked to many of our law enforcement friends and posed the same question “would you be offended if someone asked if your weapon is properly secured in a safe manner and wanted to know specifically HOW”.  The answer has, thankfully, always been a resounding “Nope….I would not be offended AT ALL”.  Responsible gun owners would appreciate the fact that you cared enough to ask.  They would probably give you a high-five!

On the other end of this battle….even though its scary…..even though it breaks your heart to have to do so……even if you are absolutely not a fan of guns and would prefer to pretend that they do not exist in your world……YOU MUST educated your children on the dangers of weapons and what to do if they or a friend find a weapon.  You MUST ensure that you fill their tiny little brains with the RESPECT for the power that weapons posses.  This is NOT the time to believe that by not talking about it, you will effectively eliminate the threat.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is tons of concrete information available to support the idea that NOT talking to your children about gun safety will make them far likelier to have NOT A DAMN CLUE what to do should they ever come across a weapon.  And the consequences are DEADLY.  Prepare your children by reminding them to ALWAYS assume that a found weapon is loaded.  Instruct them to NEVER touch a weapon and ALWAYS seek out the help of an adult.  If they see a friend playing with a weapon DO NOT yell at them to stop it and drop it.  Do you know how often startling a child with a loaded weapon has deadly consequences?  Back away slowly and quietly and get help.

Stage safety drills.  Even if you do not allow your child to play with pretend weapons…….go to the dollar store and BUY one.  Hide it somewhere that you child can somewhat easily find it.  Then have a conversation with your child about the importance of not touching and telling an adult.  Then wait.  See if they find it.  See what they do.  You will know immediately how much more conversation you will need to have.  This is generally not a one-time conversation.  This, like talking about sex, is an on-going process.  You will need to give age appropriate information.  You will need to tailor the conversation not to your specific beliefs, but to the realities of the world.  I’m sorry, I truly am.   I wish that were not so.  But it is and the sooner you face it, the safer your child will be.

The reality is this…..Please don’t be that gut-wrenching, heart broken family on the news who never thought it could happen to them.  My husband has seen this reality far too often in his 18 year law enforcement career.  And I promise you this…….  He still remembers every call for a child who died of an accidental gun shot.  He still remembers their faces, their names.  He can tell you their date of birth and their date of death.  He knows each age.  He remembers the address of the home it happened in.  He lives with these tiny little ghosts every day.  They haunt him.  They whisper to him in his heart…….. “let me be the last one”.