Dear Abby: A wiser answer on kids and guns

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DEAR ABBY: I am a Yale-trained pediatric nurse with a post-master’s as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I respectfully ask that you retract your answer to “First-Time Mom in New Jersey” (June 21). I’m concerned your response will encourage other mothers to buy into the incorrect assumption that it’s “impolite” to ask questions that ensure their child’s safety.

You should have encouraged and empowered “First-Time Mom” to politely ask about the presence of weapons in the other parents’ homes, and if so, how they are stored. It’s important information for her to have.

If she has every playdate at her house and refuses to go to another home because she’s afraid to ask about gun safety, eventually the other mothers will pick up on the fact that she doesn’t trust their child-rearing capabilities, but won’t know why. If these potential friends don’t have unsecured firearms, or if they do and they are properly and safely stored, your advice will prevent healthy, honest friendships from developing, which will socially isolate her.

How will she ever ensure a break for herself by allowing and encouraging her child to socialize at another trusted mother’s home she knows to be safe? Your advice will only isolate “First-Time Mom” further and put her and her toddler at great risk. — COLLEEN M. SULLIVAN, RN, MSN, CPNP

DEAR COLLEEN: Of course you are right. The woman’s question wasn’t about etiquette. It was about child safety. A large number of readers besides you agreed my perspective was off. I have heard all of you loud and clear, and I apologize.

I should have advised: “You are responsible for your child’s welfare. Part of assuring her safety involves asking whether weapons are on the premises and, if so, what safety precautions have been taken. (The same is true for prescription drugs, swimming pools, caustic chemicals and foods to which your child is allergic.) You should also ask if the children will be under parental supervision at all times.

If anyone feels concern for your child’s safety is presumptuous, do not allow your child to play there. Suggest instead that the children play at your house

Part 2: How to ask parents if they own guns

Read on for more perspectives:

DEAR ABBY: I am a pediatrician and a mother. Your advice to “First-Time Mom” about gun safety runs counter to the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as numerous gun violence protection groups.

Research shows that guns are present in one in three homes, and that one in three of those guns is kept loaded and unlocked, posing a risk to children. This is why I routinely recommend that parents inquire about the presence of guns and storage methods at the homes their children visit. I also urge them to discuss with their CHILD the importance of never touching a gun and immediately notifying an adult if they come across a gun or are shown one by another child. — JESSICA MOWRY, M.D.

DEAR ABBY: Probably the toughest call a cop has is a shooting where one child gets ahold of a loaded, unsecured gun and accidentally kills his sibling in child’s play. As an adjunct professor in criminal justice, I ask my students how many of them know someone who was involved in a gun suicide, homicide, assault, accident or other crime. Typically, one-third of the hands go up.

Parents should be able to politely ask whether a gun is in a house where their children regularly play. Sometimes the owners are not as responsible as they should be. — CHESTER J. KULIS, ILLINOIS

READERS: More on this subject tomorrow. It’s important, so stay tuned.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

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