I live in a nice town just outside of Boston. We don’t have a gun culture here. We don’t have a hunting culture here. Do we ask about guns before sending our kids on playdates?
I grew up in a state with a hunting culture, but it felt like more of a trophy-hunting culture than a hunt-for-meat sort of thing. I had my opinions about hunters and hunting, mostly (I admit) from my father.
Then I moved to rural Maine. I worked on a construction crew. Though I’d trained in restoration carpentry, in Maine I ended up with an excellent contractor and his wonderful crew. It was new, super-energy-efficient construction, and Leon was kind of a perfectionist. Just the other day I painted a shelf to hang on my wall and thought, Jeez, Leon would have a conniption about these brush marks. Let’s not even talk about the paint drips. Leon wouldn’t let us do anything sloppy: framing, roofing, finish work, painting. You did it perfectly. After a brief time on a sloppy crew, it was nice to be with a perfectionist again, but it was tough. Framing? You’d better toenail those studs just right or you’d be pulling the nails and starting over. Finish work? I wasn’t even allowed to do it on his crew; that was up to Steve and Mark. I was one of the painters, once we got to that point, after framing, sheathing, roofing, hanging drywall.
Anyway. So now I live in the city and conventional wisdom (or mom blogs, or Today.com, or whatever) suggests you ask fellow parents about guns before sending your kid over for a playdate.
In a part of the country where I think it’s safe to say the “mommy wars” have bright embers, guns seem the least of our issues.
(Also, yeah, at this point in our nation’s history, while child death by accidental gunshot at a suburban friend’s house still occurs, I do NOT think that is the biggest of the gun threats in this country. Have you read the news in the past two years? Yeah.)
My older boy had a recent playdate at a friend’s house for the first time. I wasn’t entirely comfortable, but guns weren’t what I was worried about. It was hard to articulate my concerns (mostly, we just didn’t know the parents well, and the mom wouldn’t be home). I decided in the end not to ask about guns (go ahead, judge me — I asked the questions I thought needed to be asked and made sure we were all comfortable).
My younger son has a playdate this week. The mom emailed me:
Also, I always ask this when he goes to a new friend’s house — do you guys own any guns, and if you do would you be comfortable telling me how or where they are stored? Your answer won’t impact my decision to have ——— come over on Friday. We don’t own any guns in case you wanted to know the same thing for when —— is here next week.
Oh! That’s how it’s done! I wasn’t put off at all, and though it frankly feels odd in this part of the country to be asked about guns, I get it and am happy she asked and it makes me feel better about asking other parents.
Except this is tricky. “Do you own any guns.”
So no, there are no guns here. I lived in rural Maine for three years and the great men I worked with were, for the most part, hunters. For meat, not for trophies. They knew and respected the woods better than anyone I knew. So when my boyfriend at the time gave me an antique rifle for Valentine’s Day one year, I was thrilled. And on Opening Day (of deer season), I was out there in the woods before dawn, despite the entreaties of his mother and sister to join them in town for the annual opening day early-bird shopping. No thanks.
I put on my long johns and filled my thermos with hot coffee and went out in the woods, on the other side of the road from where Todd was setting up, and I found an intersection of two deer paths and I settled in and waited. I’d had plenty of target practice in in their back field and really enjoyed shooting clay pigeons.
It was gorgeous in the Maine woods as the sun rose, going from dark to almost light to lighter to gray light to light. I smoked a cigarette. I poured myself some coffee. I pulled out my journal. I wrote about the woods, the light, about how amazing it was to be out there at dawn. I smoked another cigarette.
So of course I didn’t see a single deer. Maybe they don’t like the smell of coffee and cigarettes. When I later moved to Boston I brought my old Sterling 30-30 with me. And then I found out about the gun laws and panicked and went to a nearby gun shop to buy a trigger lock and the following weekend drove to Connecticut to put the gun in my brother’s gun safe. This was in 1999, and to my knowledge the gun is still locked in that gun safe. I haven’t seen it (or, obviously, used it) since then.
The mom hadn’t asked if we had any guns in our home. She’d asked if we owned any guns. I had to be honest, right?
We do not have any guns here. [Full disclosure: I do own a hunting rifle from when I lived in rural Maine, but it is not here — it is stored in a locked gun safe, with a trigger lock on the rifle itself, at my brother’s house in Connecticut and has been there since 1999 (I haven’t even seen it since then!).]
*Sigh* Do I really need to disclose that I own a 30-30? My aim is probably crap at this point, though I would love to have a freezer full of venison.
I’m glad she asked. Just ask. You don’t know if one parent is into shooting at the range and is sloppy about gun storage. Don’t assume just because you live in a nice suburb in an area where no one hunts that someone doesn’t have a gun. Gun ownership has nothing to do with hunting culture at all.
Just ask. We’ll all feel better.