Canucks & liberal parents: your kid has a friend whose dad shoots guns

Folks, I need a reality check again. You’ve been great in the past, so I’m turning to the collective wisdom of the dope once again. Here’s my dilemma:

I’m a stay at home dad and getting involved in my son’s new school. He’s 6 and just starting first grade. I’m getting to know other parents, volunteering in the classroom, that sort of thing. When he was three, trusquirt was diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum. Through therapy and a wonderful specialized pre-school & kindergarten, he has progressed incredibly well. He is now age appropriate for speech, and doing well in a regular community school with some additional support to help him learn social skills, especially with peers, as he is an only child. We’ve done a lot of work with him to help him learn to be a good friend & play partner. So far, he seems to be getting along with his classmates, who have shrugged off moments of less typical behavior, and I’m hoping he may make some friends with whom he can play after school, especially since there are no kids his age on our street. As part of this, I’m being very careful to get off on a good footing with parents of kids in my son’s class.

Now the crux of the issue: so far, I have kept the fact that I shoot guns for a hobby deeply hidden, especially in circles where it might be learned by someone at school… This is out of fear that other parents may decide to prevent their kids from associating and playing with my son. If someone decides they want nothing to do with me because I shoot, that’s fine with me, but I don’t want this to hurt my son in an area where he is is already more vulnerable. The matter is not helped by the fact I shoot handguns, which have an even worse image in Canada, and am considering doing so competitively next summer.

The matter was brought to a kind of head this week, when I returned from a shooting course my lovely wife offered me near Las Vegas. I wrestled with how to talk about my absence with the group of parents I see when I drop my son off at school. In the end, I opted to keep the genie in the bottle and lied, saying I was on a golf training course. That bugged me. I try to avoid lying as much as possible, and it felt wrong and cowardly, but I would do much to protect my son.

I know that the cat will come out of the bag one day, if only because my son will tell a friend. I hope that will be after we have had some time to establish some relationships between the families, and the other parents will have gotten a chance to know me a little better. Right now, our son isn’t very interested in shooting, and, while I haven’t lied to him about it, I have kept it very low-profile, being careful not to excite his curiosity too much. He asked if I would teach him one day, and I promised I would when he is old enough, just like I will teach him to use the lawn-mower and the sharp kitchen knives to cut vegetables. His interest in all three of these activities appears to be about the same, which it to say, very mild, and that’s fine with me right now.

I am very strict about firearm safety, and comply with all the Canadian storage laws. My guns are kept unloaded, trigger-locked, and in a safe. Reasonable concerns expressed by other parents who want to make sure their kids are safe if they come over do not worry me. In fact, I would welcome them as a sign these parents are on the ball. However, the gun forums I read are replete with stories of ostracism and shunning of gun owners and their kids. Now these forums obviously have an agenda and are quite conservative, hence the need for a reality check.

Especially if you are Canadian, or an American who otherwise considers yourself to be socially liberal, or have no personal history with firearms, can you tell me how YOU would react, if you learned that one of your kids friend’s father was into shooting handguns as a hobby?

How much do I need to stay in the gun closet?

Please be honest. If you would tell your kid not to play with that child anymore, you would do me a great service if you told me so.

American, pretty liberal.

I wouldn’t care a whit. In fact, I’d probably ask you about it. It’s kind of a cool hobby.

Wouldn’t bother me, personally–as a socially liberal person, I think everyone’s entitled to their hobbies. And I grew up in a pacifist Anabaptist church in the Midwest, so for the first half of my life I would no more have considered picking up a firearm than I would diving headfirst into a bucket of mixed snot and raw sewage. Nowadays I regard them with no more than nervousness and slight distaste.

On the other hand, I live in Texas, so if I refused to associate with gun owners, I’d be pretty fucking lonely.

You may get different opinions from liberal Americans than the parents in your son’s class, so I’d urge you to keep that in mind. Hopefully some Canadopers will weigh in.

I consider myself pretty liberal, and I wouldn’t mind, but then, I’m from a family of hillbillies. I also don’t have kids yet. Lots of people in my family have guns, and I remember seeing them store them safely–unloaded, locked in a cabinet or safe. I would be initially concerned, though, if I didn’t know you well.

  • I don’t own guns and I don’t plan too, so my kids won’t be as familiar with the rules as your kid would–and I would want to make sure that they were taught to leave them alone and other safety precautions.

  • I would want to get to know you better, to make sure I trust in your responsibility.

  • I would request that you show me how you keep your guns stored before I allowed my (hypothetical) kid to visit your house.

Liberal American here. While I’ve used guns before for target practice and frankly I love shooting, certain personal experiences have left me with a strong belief in gun control.

If my child were to go over to someone’s house, I would rather know that the parents own guns than not know; upon finding out, I would certainly ask a lot of questions about how the weapon is stored and secured, and the precautions taken to keep the weapon out of children’s sight. In fact, if the parent volunteered that they are a gun owning household, and took the time to educate me about their precautions, I’d feel better than simply not knowing at all, since I think our town (small town outside Portland OR) has a fairly high gun ownership rate.

My children have a standing order to tell us immediately, if they ever see a gun out in the open in someone’s house, whether it’s lying around or someone - anyone - is holding it. If we’re not with them, they are to call us to pick them up asap. My reasoning is if the guns are visible to visiting children, and the parents cannot give a reasonable explanation as to why (and no, cleaning your gun in front of my kids is not a reasonable explanation), my children won’t visit that house any longer.

Disclaimer: I’m not a parent.

I’m a Canadian and I live in gun-hating Toronto, and the closest I have come to guns in my life is seeing one up close (belonging to the dad of a friend who lives out of town), meeting two army reservists (neither of whom I like to be around), and knowing one single person who admits to hunting (and he only admits it to his friends). In other words, guns are about as far from my experience as you can get.

However, I’d be happy to let my kid play with yours. I am keenly aware that my own understanding of guns is skewed because I haven’t had any experience with responsible gun owners. The main representations of guns I see are from the NRA-gun-nut-type stuff on the Internet (which is, if nothing else, irrelevant to non-Americans) or, on the other hand, from the sorts of people who tried (and failed) to get the gun clubs in the city shut down and are still calling for a handgun ban in Toronto.

I would want my kid to realize that ordinary decent law-abiding people can and do own guns, and it doesn’t make them monsters.

It wouldn’t bother me a bit. But then, you probably guessed that–as you may recall, I used to shoot rifles competitively. I learned gun safety from my Dad when I was small; and as a child, knew not to touch, look, etc. unless Dad was there. If I was a parent, and my child was visiting a home where there were firearms, I’d like to be able to assume that the parents were just as careful and law-abiding as you and my Dad; and so, any firearms would be safely stored and locked away.

But one can never assume anything. At one end of the spectrum, I’ve seen some examples of unsafe storage among a few folks I’ve known in life. Let’s just say that these tend to be the people who give all of us safe shooters a bad name. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ll admit that some people have freaked when they’ve learned of my experience with firearms–they seemed to think I was some kind of homicidal maniac if I was even slightly interested in firearms.

I’d say when it comes to reactions from your child’s friends’ parents, you’ll have to be ready for either of these two extremes, and everything in between. At least you have everything as safe as it can possibly be (I’m assuming–there’s that word again :)–that any ammunition is kept well away from the firearms themselves in your home), and so that may help quell any fears from some parents. But some will be unhappy no matter what you do.

Not sure if this makes much sense, but I’m looking forward to hearing what other Canadians have to say.

Liberal American, actually held a rifle one time and that is the extent of my experience with firearms. If you were a friend of mine or our kids were friends, and I found this out… I can’t imagine I would care much. My only concern would be that the weapons are stored properly and out of the reach of the kids, and that concern probably would not even come up as I would trust you as another parent. Honestly, in any given household there is a range of items that are dangerous, as a friend I would assume you smart enough to leave the rat poison on the kitchen table. This is no different.

If you have friends who would act in the way you fear, perhaps its time for new friends. Is there anything that has happened that would lead you to believe you have to hide your hobby this way?

I’d be up front about it.

I’m a liberal parent of two. My house has no guns in it. My parents house does and my children have shot those guns (pellet guns - I don’t think my dad has handed them the .22 - then again, I shot it around their age, so it wouldn’t shock me if they had).

I don’t care if you have guns in your home IF you are a responsible gun owner. I’d respect a parent more who said “before you say yes to Bobby spending the night, you should know we have guns in the house - they are kept unloaded and locked up with the ammo stored separately” (or whatever safety precautions you take). That’s far preferable than Bobby coming home with “Mom, we were playing with Billy’s Dad’s gun! Its so cool!” But I don’t grill my kid’s friend’s parents on their their gun ownership status, most parents I’ve met are pretty trustworthy when it comes to major kids safety issues.

By the way, one of my son’s friend’s parents is heavily armed - and works for the Minnesota DFL - there are a lot of heavily armed liberals in Minnesota - hunters mostly.

Liberal Canadian here, father of 3. I’m not a gun owner but I know plenty; I haven’t held a gun since my teens. The mere fact of being a gun owner wouldn’t concern me. If I thought another parent was irresponsible or acted in a way that made me doubt they were safety-conscious I would be concerned. I would be more concerned if the kids were older and I thought they could access guns since we all know how curious 11-12-whatever-year-old boys are.

This summarizes my feelings pretty well.

I’m not a gun owner or user; not anti-gun, just anti-irresponsibility. I’d prefer full disclosure up front- “Hi, I’m trupa. My son really enjoys playing with your boy and has asked to have a playdate over at our place. I do think it’s fair to tell you though that I am a gun owner and shoot competitively, it’s sort of a hobby. I keep all of my guns unloaded, trigger-locked and in a safe at all times. I’m as concerned about my son’s safety as you are…”

I’d appreciate the notice on the front end; if I found out months later that the guy whose house my son played at all the time had a bunch of pistols in the house and didn’t bother to mention that fact to me, I’d question his judgment and my son wouldn’t be going over there any longer.

Parent, but not sure where I hit on the spectrum of liberal - I think of myself as very liberal, but I grew up and live in the Deep South so my experience with guns is very much apparently not what you are used to. I can’t imagine hiding a hobby or ownership of guns around here. Having said that, I wouldn’t mind my kid hanging out with yours except for the fact that you lie about your hobbies. That is what would weird me out about you.

California-expat tree-hugging liberal son of a college professor here.

I wouldn’t have any trouble with it, but I would be wondering about the situation in your home. “My guns are kept unloaded, trigger-locked, and in a safe” would answer any and all questions I would have.

When my kids were that age, any parents who found out I had hobbies they didn’t approve of were more than welcome to go pound sand. That might not help given your son’s needs, though…

Who has a problem with responsible gun owners?

Canadian, parent. Where I grew up (Alberta), guns were a fact of life. I see that you’re in Calgary - I wouldn’t worry too much about it. For all its polish and sophistication, it’s still a frontier city underneath.

American, liberal. My concern would be that you practiced gun safety and kept your guns and ammo in a safe. I have plenty of friends with guns. I have three myself, though not for use.

Not me. And I’ve never touched a gun in my life. (Well, unless pellet guns count.)

I think you’re worrying too much. I’m a Calgarian, fairly liberal, and a parent, and as long as I could be assured that your guns were stored safely, I wouldn’t have an issue with my kids going to your home.

Canadian, Calgarian, Very Liberal

I hesitate to post, because I just know I’m going to get yelled at, but, since you asked, I’m not sure what my response would be. The idea of it does make me uneasy.

If you told me about it up front, as other posters have said, I would probably be okay with it, as your storage methods and forthrightness indicate to me that you are a responsible gun owner. I would be more comfortable if play dates were at my house, but I might try to work through my discomfort.

My father was a police officer for 35 years. During that time, the only time I saw his gun was if he had to be somewhere in full uniform. Otherwise, he stored it at work. He always felt it was far too dangerous to store it at home (and he would have stored it safely, I can guarantee) for two reasons. One (and the big reason) was because of the possibility it could be stolen during a home break-in. The second reason is because he had a sociopathic son, and the last thing he’d want to do is provide him with a weapon.

I imagine that the fact that my dad was a cop and was uncomfortable with home gun storage probably coloured my opinion of it, as well.

All that being said, I would absolutely not tell my son not to play with yours anymore. You’re clearly a conscientious person and I do not think my son would come to harm in your care, but I would be less tense if they played somewhere other than your house.

Liberal American here, and no kids yet, but lots of young relatives whom I care about as if they were my own kids.

I would let my kid play with your kid, but would probably not let him play at your house without me being present. Even though you say you store your guns responsibly, and I do believe you, I just wouldn’t take a chance with my child’s safety; mistakes can always happen. Kids - maybe not age 6, but older kids - are curious and have a talent for getting into forbidden things. They have a knack for somehow finding out a safe’s combination, for learning how to unlock the trigger lock, to find the bullets… Maybe the chances of your kid doing this are like .00000001%, but that is not a chance I would take with my child.

I have no problem with your hobby - heck, I have shot guns myself - but I would not allow my kid to be in a place with guns present, even if they are locked up. No storage method is foolproof, no person is perfect, and there have been too many tragedies where kids shoot themselves or a friend or sibling while playing with a parent’s gun.