Let me be clear: I do not care what adults decide to do in their spare time. If that involves target shooting at the gun range or having a carousing night out at the local bar, I simply don’t care. (I just hope the two activities aren’t combined.)
But let me follow that by saying that I do care what my children are exposed to and I certainly care what happens in my home. My curious children freely play in a home environment I have worked hard to ensure is safe. To that extent, I am adamant about keeping guns outside our doors.
My husband and I decided when our first son came home with us from the safe little hospital where everything was pastel and rubbery that we were going to keep all guns far away from our house. We’ve read the statistics on how many toddlers are killed (or kill others) by accidentally finding loaded guns. Since I am supposed to do everything in my power to keep life-threatening risks to my kids down, I figured keeping guns away from them was a good start.
I am aware that not everyone will agree with me and our decision. Before we start quoting the Second Amendment, I am not writing an “anti-gun” article. Friends and family are completely free to (legally) get their guns, take the appropriate class, and carry their guns with them, at least until such time as the country collectively decides to change any laws.
Just don’t carry the gun into my home.
Surprisingly, despite living in a relatively safe and sheltered suburban community, this has been harder to accomplish than I thought. As of a report from July 2014, the number of Americans with a permit to carry a concealed weapon was a staggering 11.1 million. What are the odds that one day a new friend of ours is going to come for a playdate with a gun (legally) hidden in their diaper bag? With numbers like that, the odds are not in our favor.
Even quite a few of our family members have surprised us by becoming gun hobbyists in the past few years, owning Smith & Wessons they received permits to have on them at all times. Luckily, my husband and I are on the same page and our family members have respected our decision. It has been pleasantly easy (and we deemed it necessary) to have conversations with our kin. But it is not so easy to talk about this with the mommy’s group I invite over for a playdate or the plumber coming to check my toilet.
So, starting at my front door, what rights do I have to keep others from bringing their concealed weapons into my house? Do we start frisking people who want to visit?
There is already a lot of Internet chatter on whether it is okay to ask if there are guns before sending your child to play in someone else’s house. But what we haven’t discussed as a community, what has been affecting my family in a real way, is when visitors bring a concealed gun into our house. They do so legally but sometimes we aren’t even aware until much later, sometimes I fear we are never aware. The horrible situation my mind concocts of children rifling through a bag and discovering a loaded shiny object that I didn’t realize was on my property frightens me.
After a lot of digging into this and asking the bright legal minds I have access to about this issue, what I have realized is that the burden is on me to actively ask visitors not to bring guns into my home, not on a visitor having to ask permission to bring a gun onto my property where my children are. This seems backward.
“Want to come over for some Goldfish crackers and crafts? Please, no guns,” I have to ask. “Come celebrate my son’s 4th Birthday! No presents, please. And no guns, please.” But the visitor does not have to ask, “Is it okay if I bring the licensed gun in my purse into your house?” Legal or not, trained or not, at what point does the carrier of the weapon have to secure my approval before bringing it in?
Since we haven’t collectively addressed this topic, things are admittedly murky. But it seems the law does a great job of protecting Americans who want to have a concealed weapon; it doesn’t seem as concerned with my right to enforce my home as a gun-free zone. It seems as though a permit trumps my decision about my private, personal property where my kids play.
After seeking ways I could make our house rules clear and enforceable, I was hopeful I could simply post a “no weapons allowed” decal on my front door. That would make my intentions clear while simultaneously avoiding awkward situations. It was the ultimate passive way to accomplish what I wanted. But what I have read is that this is not necessarily legally binding and may not even be honored. In fact, during my research, I found many recent articles from gun activist groups advocating that such decals be actively ignored.
Since my home is my private property, I do have some rights, of course. For example, if I discover that there is a concealed weapon in my home, I am free to threaten the carrier with trespassing charges until they leave. But even that isn’t necessarily guaranteed: it requires me to know they have a gun first of all and there seems to be some confusion about what is legally appropriate if the person still refuses to leave (not to mention they are armed and I am now in an altercation with them).
As more Americans get their concealed carry permits, the best way I can find to navigate this issue is to ask anyone before entering our house if they have a gun on them. If they refuse to leave it in their car, I can refuse them entry. It won’t make me friends and playdates will now be incredibly more awkward to set up, but at least my home can stay gun-free for my kids. It is a big, ugly conversation that seems worth risking.
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