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Gun Etiquette

My sister “Debbie” was kind enough to babysit our 1-year-old daughter for a couple hours while my husband and I had a belated Valentine’s Day dinner. This was sort of a special treat, as Debbie does not watch our daughter on a regular basis. When we dropped her off, Debbie told me that her friend “Sara” and Sara’s husband “Dan” were going to be stopping by. I’ve met them both a couple times, so I didn’t have a problem with it.

While we were gone, Sara and Dan arrived at my sister’s place, and they got to talking about my brother-in-law’s new shotgun. (We live in an area where hunting is a very common pastime.) Dan asked if he could see the gun. Debbie gave him permission to look at it on the condition that he do so in a separate room away from my daughter. He took it into the living room while my sister, daughter, and Sara stayed in the family room. The rooms are attached but are partially separated by a wall. Dan is ex-military, so Debbie trusted him to use proper safety precautions.

Apparently, while my sister was sitting with her back to the doorway, Dan got up and moved toward the family room with the gun still in his hands. So when we returned a couple hours later, the first thing I saw as I walked in the door was Dan holding my brother-in-law’s (unloaded) shotgun, cocking it, uncocking it, examining it, and all-around playing with it. Not only was he doing this in the doorway of the same room where my daughter was standing, but he was also haphazardly pointing it in her general direction. Now, though I don’t own a gun myself, I’ve grown up around guns, and I know that the first rule of gun safety is that you treat all guns as if they are loaded, whether you think they actually are or not. This was not what Dan was doing.

This upset me for obvious reasons, but in the moment, I didn’t know how to react. I think I may have uttered something like, “Oh, a gun” and then picked my daughter up and moved to a different part of the room out of range. Dan continued to play with the gun as I put my daughter’s shoes and coat on to leave. I didn’t say anything about it, though looking back, I really wish I had. I’m a non-confrontational person by nature and a first-time parent who questioned her instincts.

My sister has since apologized and taken full responsibility for the incident. Debbie adores my daughter and would never knowingly put her in harm’s way. Though Dan is responsible for his own (irresponsible and dangerous!) actions, she admits that it was a lapse in judgment on her part to even allow him to look at the gun while my daughter was present. I’m working on letting it go, but it still ties my stomach knots to think of what could have happened. 0219-13

Dan isn’t the only irresponsible person.  Where is Debbie’s husband, the alleged owner of this gun?   He has a more serious responsibility to control where and how his gun is handled by others and it appears he has abdicated that responsibility completely.   We are a gun owning family with lots of gun owning friends who take gun handling seriously. On a few rare occasions I have witnessed guns being removed quite impolitely from the hands of careless people and I have no problems with the manner in which that is done.   Haphazardly point a gun, regardless of whether it is loaded or not, in the wrong direction, and the men in my family will promptly  take control of your arm and remove the weapon from your hand.  And then the idiot will be asked to leave the premises.   We’ve had one relationship cool significantly because we will not allow the man with his cavalier gun handling attitude back on the property.

There will be those who will argue that gun safety is not an etiquette issue. It most certainly is.    There is a protocol and “rules” to handling guns that, if practiced consistently, yields a pattern of behavior that places the importance of others first and instills a serious appreciation for the responsibility of handling a potentially lethal item.   Hunter safety courses and concealed carry classes are also gun handling etiquette classes.   There are long established etiquette rules regarding the handing of knives, for example.   When dining, one does not point a knife at others while gesturing since this is rude.    In the middle ages, pointing a knife during dinner could get you killed as this was viewed as an aggressive gesture.   When not actively cutting a food item, the knife is placed out of the way across the plate. And when handing a knife from person to person, the giver extends the handle and does not let go until the receiver says, “Thank you”, thus acknowledging the safe transfer of the knife from one to another.    Same goes for guns.    Guns should be always be handled as if they were loaded whether they are or not therefore muzzles should *always* be pointed to the ground unless you are targeting to shoot something.    Lots of stupid accidents could be prevented if that one rule was faithfully honored.   Three people got hit with birdshot from a shotgun at a gun show at Raleigh a year or two ago because the owner was negligent in his maintenance of his gun and extremely careless as to where the muzzle was pointed.   And when handing the gun from person to person, the same rules for knives apply….the giver retains a grip on the gun until the receiver acknowledges firm control of the gun.

So, OP, it looks to me like Deb and her husband need a refresher course in Hunter Safety and until they step up their gun etiquette, I wouldn’t be around them when the guns are out.

{ 71 comments }

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  • Andi October 7, 2014, 5:58 am

    POD Admin

  • Tara October 7, 2014, 6:07 am

    My father in law has guns too, and is very safe about them. But he still managed to accidentally blow a hole in his ceiling. Accidents happen, and everyone who has half a brain should realize that the gun should always be pointed away from people, just in case. If OP’s sister isn’t willing to take a gun away from someone who’s handling it unsafely, then OP’s sister isn’t responsible enough to be babysitting children.

  • Lenore October 7, 2014, 6:08 am

    When it comes to mishandling of guns, it’s safety first and etiquette second. The seconds you waste saying “Oh, I beg your pardon, but could you not point the gun at me?” could be vital ones.

    Honestly, my first instinct would’ve been to hastily remove the gun from his possession, and probably give a good old fashioned slap upside the head for being so frikkin careless and thoughtless.

    • EllenS October 7, 2014, 12:31 pm

      I think Admin addressed this in the point about immediate removal of guns from unsafe people. I have seen too much stupid behavior around guns from people who should know better (including ex-military). Debbie would not be babysitting my child again.

  • B October 7, 2014, 7:39 am

    The time to admire people’s shotguns is not when babysitting young children.

    I also doubt Debbie is being honest about not seeing Dan because she had her back to the door. If he’s pointing the gun at the child, cocking and uncocking it, how on earth could Debbie not realize? I find that part of her story very difficult to believe. Agreed that I would not think her responsible enough to look after my child.

  • Lera99 October 7, 2014, 8:01 am

    My mother and I each own a hand gun.
    We both have concealed weapons permits so if we go on a road trip we can take a gun with us in the car.
    We keep our guns in a gun safe. One in each of our bedrooms.

    I can’t imagine letting someone randomly handle my gun just so they could amuse themselves.

    Maybe it’s because we are not really gun people. We don’t collect them, we don’t hunt, etc…
    So our guns are purely self defense. And we treat them as the deadly things they are. We go to the range every 3 or 4 months to keep in practice.

    But other than that, our guns are meant to kill someone who has broken into our home with the intent to harm us. That’s what they are to us. The means to kill someone who is trying to harm us.

    So if someone was all “Oh! I’d love to play around with your gun!” I’d probably look at them like they had 3 heads.

    No, it’s not a toy. It’s not a collector’s piece, it’s not a novelty.

    It’s a deadly weapon that I own only because my father thought it was a good idea to give our home address to a bunch of convicted felons as part of a prison ministry.

  • BellyJean October 7, 2014, 8:04 am

    Honestly, when I saw the title, and then the first line of this story, I was terrified that the outcome was going to be completely different.

    OP – please do not question your instincts. I’m glad that your sister was very apologetic, and Dan was a complete and utter moron who should never ever have a gun again. You never point a gun at someone/near someone. I was even taught this with fake guns.

    I’m very happy to see that the ending was a relatively happy one.

  • knitwicca October 7, 2014, 8:26 am

    POD to the Admin.

    I come from a family of hunters and cops.
    The first rule of gun-ownership I learned was “It is loaded even when you KNOW it is not”.
    The second rule “Never point the weapon unless you intend to shoot it. No matter what.”

    • Coffee October 9, 2014, 12:38 am

      That’s what I learned too. I’ve been around guns since I was little and handled them pretty young too. With tight supervision of someone who understood gun safety, my father in this case, and only AFTER having those two very simple rules ground into my head. If you are not prepared for the thought of that person DEAD, you don’t point a gun in their direction, even if it’s in pieces.

    • Syn October 12, 2014, 4:21 pm

      I’ve never held a gun, and I know those rules.

  • Cecilia October 7, 2014, 8:40 am

    If Dan was in the military, he should know gun handling safety procedures. I don’t understand repeatedly cocking, uncocking and pointing a gun indoors, especially with a child visible in the doorway, when Debbie basically told him “not in front of my niece”. I understand he was not intentionally pointing it at the child, but still, Dan needs to be more careful and respect gun safety etiquette.

    I’m with Admin on where was Debbie’s husband? If my husband were gone and friends came by and wanted to see his gun, I would tell them they had to wait for him to return or come back another time.

    I understand being non-confrontational, but I believe I may have spoken up and said something along the lines of “Dan, I think you need to be a bit more careful about pointing that gun with my child there in the doorway”.

    • admin October 7, 2014, 2:25 pm

      In my late teens I got an abrupt lesson in safe gun handling from my older neighbor. I was holding an unloaded pistol belonging to him and being careless about where the muzzle was pointed. He grabbed my wrist hard, held it firmly and very sternly told me to never treat any gun that way again. Sure put the fear of God in me!

      • B October 8, 2014, 3:40 am

        My dad was in the Army cadets at school and his grandfather used to come in and help out.

        One boy started being careless with the air rifles, and pointed one for a joke at another child, in front of my great-granddad. Who was a First World War infantry veteran.

        He didn’t do that again!

  • danmar7 October 7, 2014, 8:57 am

    My dad was born smack in the middle of the Great Depression, then spent his teen years during WW2.

    Relevant because guns were a constant presence in his life. They hunted like Duck Dynasty to keep the family fed.

    Once he was back from his military stint, married, and with kids, the guns were hidden deep and dark in a corner of his closet. Point of note: he never took us hunting, we never ate ground rodents. When we were old enough, we were shown but not taught. “You’ll know what to do.” Um. No I won’t. I’ve never fired a gun, where is the ammo, who am I shooting at?

    So I absolutely agree that a mother needs to vet vet vet who she leaves her baby with. Free is never free.

    • Cat October 8, 2014, 5:39 pm

      I read about a man who was being attacked by a bear. He called to his wife to get his shotgun and to shoot the bear before it killed him. He had never taught her to load the shotgun.
      Afraid that her husband would be dead by the time she figured it out, she did the only thing she could think of-she brought the stock down on the bear’s head with all the strength she could muster. It gave her time to gather up her husband and to run inside the house.
      I bet she knows how to load a shotgun now.

  • PJ October 7, 2014, 9:04 am

    Agree completely with the Admin. Dan should have had that gun removed from his hands the minute it was clear that he had no intention of handling it safely. It never should have reached the point where he was in the doorway to the living room, as he had already agreed to stay out of there.

    I place most of the blame on Debbie’s husband since he is the gun owner and needs to be responsible for keeping his guns under control. Until he can demonstrate more responsibility as an owner, my child would not return to his house.

    (I also grew up in a family very comfortable with guns, and the safety/etiquette rules were taken every bit as seriously as the Admin describes in her family).

  • Eve_Eire October 7, 2014, 9:05 am

    Without wishing to get into any debates on gun ownership – I have a further etiquette question. As I am from a country where private citizens do not have guns – I would be more than uncomfortable to be in the presence of one. My question is this: If I was in the house in the above story and a gun was taken out – would it be rude of me to ask that the gun be kept locked away and for noone to handle it while I’m in the house? Or would it be up to me to leave the house and then in future find out whether there will be a gun present when I visit people’s homes and decline any invitations if so?

    Just to be clear – I in no way am asking about the rights or wrongs of your gun laws or gun ownership. I am just asking from an etiquette point of view what the most polite way would be for me to handle such a situation?

    • Lera99 October 7, 2014, 2:52 pm

      You are fine etiquette-wise to express your discomfort.

      There are some people who are terrified of dogs because they’ve been bitten by one.
      If someone in my house said, “I didn’t realize you had a dog. I’m terrified of dogs. Would you mind keeping her in the backyard or a different room?” that would be a reasonable request.

      Now, I might say “No! My dog is my baby! How dare you not love my little cuddle-wumpkins as much as I do!” at which point you could decide you’d rather not enjoy my hospitality.

      I believe the same is reasonable for guns.

      It would be strange for someone to whip out a gun at a social event. But if it happened you are well within your rights to say “I’m sorry. Guns make me very uncomfortable. Would you mind putting that away?”

    • Willynilly October 7, 2014, 3:25 pm

      I agree with Lera99, so long as you asked politely and it wasn’t a gun relevant event (a hunting trip or an impromptu gathering of folks hiding from zombies and trying to drum up defensive measures) its not rude to ask guns not be brought out and handled. Of course you have to be willing to accept the answer might be not to your liking – some people carry their firearm, and certainly some people show off a new gun just as they might show off any new tool. But its not impolite to ask, guns are serious and frightening and require education and its reasonable to not want to be around one at a casual social event.

    • Dee October 7, 2014, 6:24 pm

      A gun’s one and only purpose is to shoot. It has no other meaning. If being around something like that makes you uncomfortable then you have a pretty healthy attitude. If you are with people who think nothing of handling it when it is not necessary and at inappropriate times (such as during a social visit) then you can be assured that they do not have a healthy attitude towards guns. I don’t think you need to hesitate to ask that the guns be put away, and/or decline to visit further. Plenty of great company to be had in this world without having to put up with that kind of nonsense.

      • lafred October 8, 2014, 10:31 am

        Amen.

    • EllenS October 7, 2014, 11:09 pm

      I grew up and still live in an area where gun ownership is common, and received some basic lessons on gun handling in my youth. I would still be extremely uncomfortable if someone were showing off/passing around/ handling a gun casually in a social situation. I know some collectors do get together to compare notes, but as we used to say, that’s “not my scene.” To me, the only reasons for a gun to be out are a) maintenance; b) training, or c) to be used as intended. None of these are social situations.
      I agree with Lera that it would be more than OK to express your discomfort, and a good host would save the “collector’s corner” moment for another time. It really isn’t appropriate in general company.
      Now, if you are so uncomfortable with the idea of private gun ownership that you wouldn’t want to go to someone’s house even if they have a (properly stored) gun on the premises? I don’t know any way for you to “screen” for that without being intrusive and odd – except in the case of kid playdates. If a parent were to ask whether a new friend’s family had a gun and how they stored it, before a playdate, that would be unusual but logical. Kids get into stuff they aren’t supposed to.

    • LonelyHound October 8, 2014, 9:16 am

      Eve_Eire, I was born and raised around guns. My Hubby and I own one that is double locked to prevent any issues. It is hidden, locked, and only meant for home protection unless we decide to go skeet shooting. My dad was a SWAT team member and sharpshooter. My mom is also a sharpshooter. I grew up shooting guns and am a Master Archer with a recurve bow. And I am STILL uncomfortable around guns. I like owning one. Skeet is a fun sport to do, but once it enters my door it must be trigger locked and then locked in its holder. My children are never around it, and only the adults in the house know we own it.

      That being said, I would most certainly NOT be offended if we brought out the gun and you asked to have it put away. I would not be offended if you decided to leave if we refused. I have always believed the essesence of a good gun owning household is that guest never know a gun exists, but that is just me.

    • AnaMaria October 9, 2014, 6:53 pm

      I am an American who has lived abroad as a missionary and currently teach English as a Second Language in the public school, so I have been privileged to meet people from an array of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. I’ve taken part in many, many intriguing conversations, but the topic of gun ownership is almost always something we have to agree to disagree on. Many of my foreign friends (representing several different regions of the world) find it unfathomable that my easy-going, mentally-stable dad would dream of using a shotgun to defend my mother or anyone else in their home from an intruder (he has never actually had to fire, but he has hand to stand guard while waiting for police to arrive); I don’t understand how they can think shooting an innocent person is the same as shooting someone who is attacking your spouse or children.

      That being said, if guns make you uncomfortable, you are well within your means to speak up and politely ask that they not be taken out for show-and-tell while you are present. Respect their right to own a gun, explain you are sure they are responsible- it’s just something that makes you personally uncomfortable. To be at a house where preparations are in place for a hunting trip, or if an intruder has broken in, that’s a whole different story, but people should understand the cultural difference in attitudes towards guns!

      • Enna October 12, 2014, 3:36 pm

        I would never own a gun myself but I do believe that safety is the main key. I’ve seen one armed police officer at a distance at Buckingham palace but that’s been it

  • Lizajane October 7, 2014, 9:16 am

    First, I agree with everything the Admin said. I want to say to the OP, follow your gut about this and be clear that this is to never happen again. Since your sister obviously gets that, try to let it go. Getting yourself all worked up thinking about what could have happened is setting yourself up for a lifetime of. misery. You’re just getting started, be vigilant, and move on.

  • acr October 7, 2014, 9:55 am

    I understand why the LW was alarmed when she walked in. But after that, I feel like there is a lot of over-reacting going on here. Yes, you should always treat a gun as if it is loaded, until you check for yourself that it is not. It doesn’t sound like Dan was pointing the gun at the LW’s daughter and pulling the trigger. (If he was, then I withdraw my comment.) But once Dan had made certain that the gun was unloaded, I don’t see a problem with him examining it, etc.

    I don’t think a hunter’s safety course is going to tell you to evacuate your house if you will be examining a gun that you have personally unloaded.

    • admin October 7, 2014, 2:20 pm

      Loaded or not, the first rule of gun safety is to never point the muzzle anywhere other than where you intend to shoot. And if you don’t intend to shoot, you point that muzzle to the ground. Period.

    • Anna October 7, 2014, 2:32 pm

      Actually even if you have personally unloaded the gun you should be very sure to point it away from anyone. Examining it is fine, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to do that examination away from small children. I have many friends who are gun owners, and they are all very responsible with their guns, yet about a year ago one of them was cleaning his gun, personally unloaded his gun, and ended up with a bullet through his hand because he forgot to empty the chamber. Accidents happen, which is why it is so important to be careful where the gun is pointing.

    • AnaMaria October 7, 2014, 5:08 pm

      Just the fact that he was playing with the gun in front of a child- not carrying it in transport, not cleaning it, not just holding it and then putting it way, but cocking and uncocking it- is over the edge. Children can tell when an adult is using something for work vs. just playing with it, and if an adult is playing with it, it must be a toy. All the child needs now is to stumble across a gun that is not properly locked up, remember how much fun Auntie’s friend was having with it, and tragedy is imminent. ,

      When a child is physically and mentally capable of handling a gun, by all means, teach them gun safety, take them hunting or to the shooting range, and prepare them to defend themselves if need be, but there is no reason for a tot to be near a gun!

  • Dee October 7, 2014, 9:55 am

    Why would the subject of guns, and the playing of one, even come up for conversation while “Debbie” is caring for a baby? I mean, how much more inappropriate could this be? Who cares about a new gun enough to consider bringing it out while children are around?!? Serious lack of common sense + gun owners = I’m so glad I live where guns are not a part of everyday life. Many people I grew up with were hunters but never, NEVER were guns trotted out for view. They were a tool for practical use only. This issue isn’t about the guns as much as it is about gun culture and the stupid people it attracts. Ugh.

  • Jenny R October 7, 2014, 9:56 am

    “Debbie adores my daughter and would never knowingly put her in harm’s way”. Well she did, she put your daughter in a position to literally get her head shot off. Do not allow your daughter in this house again until there is a proper gun safe and the guns are secured under lock and key.

    I would have done as you did and gotten my daughter immediately out of the way. Then I would have given the person holding the gun a verbal beatdown that he would not forget the rest of his life. Speaking only for myself I would be (and stay) so angry over the stupidity that my daughter and I would not be returning to that house ever again. If those people are that lacking in judgement and critical thinking, I don’t know what other stupid things they are capable of doing. All confidence and trust in their ability to care for my daughter would be gone forever. This is much more serious than a lapse in judgement, a lapse in judgement is when you ask an overweight woman if she is pregnant, waving a gun around and at someone is in a category of reckless disregard for their life.

  • LonelyHound October 7, 2014, 10:04 am

    I was born and raised in a gun friendly household. And gun safety was most definitely an etiquette issue. Many of the gun firendly households, including my own, consider gun safety rules part of the house rules, and if one could not follow the rules one was considered impolite. Gun rules are especially important. My father taught me a little bit differently than what the OP said. He taught me the first rule was NEVER point a gun at something you do not intend to shoot, that includes a wall. Then it was treat a gun as loaded, always. I was taught this way because if you had no intention of shooting a wall or target you had no reason to pick up the gun in the first place, loaded or not. My dad never let us handle guns when he was not around unless it was the home protection and he was not there. Gun rules or gun etiquette is all about safety. If you do not respect me enough to handle a gun safely or as I request then, to me, it shows a lack of respect for my household and myself. Period.

  • FoxPaws October 7, 2014, 10:53 am

    I got the impression that Debbie’s husband – the gun owner – was not there when all this was taking place. If that’s the case, it’s too bad she didn’t use that as an out and make Dan wait until BIL was home to show the gun himself. As for the OP, I think this was an occasion where it would have been perfectly acceptable to make her displeasure known. “Excuse me, could you watch where you’re pointing that thing.”

  • JD October 7, 2014, 11:10 am

    My dad had a pistol as part of the Civil Defense corp, and a shotgun. He taught us that ALL guns are loaded, no matter how many times you check the empty chambers. Case in point, his own brother shot a hole in the floor right next to his wife’s foot while cleaning an “empty” gun — but he was pointing it down, at least. I got into quite the argument with my husband the other day for pointing a gun up in the house. I would NOT grab a gun away — that’s asking for it to go off — but I certainly would say “You need to get that gun out of this room,” and snatch my child up and get her out of the way.

  • Wendy B. October 7, 2014, 11:16 am

    Ex military doesn’t mean ex stupid.

    • Lenore October 8, 2014, 6:33 am

      I wish I could give cookies over the internet, because you’d get a TRUCK full of them…

  • Ashley October 7, 2014, 11:35 am

    Did Debbie say anything to the extent of “Excuse me, I thought we agreed you’d keep the gun in the other room and pointed away from people”?

  • just4kicks October 7, 2014, 12:00 pm

    Please let me start off by saying that I support everyone’s right to protect themselves, and if you choose to own a gun or several, that is your business and your right as an American. My husband and I don’t hunt, fish, or camp. My kids have never been around guns, but, we live in a very quiet farm community where mostly everyone hunts or fishes, or both. I have told my kids from little on up that guns are not toys, and you are never to touch one if you go to a friend’s house who family hunts. If a friend asks if you want to see or play with a gun, you say no. If the kid insists, you call us, we will come and get you. I was admonished by one mom who said her kid (13 years old), had received his first “real” gun for Christmas from his grandpa and was eager to show it off. Totally understandable. My son who was spending the weekend was uncomfortable, and said something along the lines of “that’s great, hope you have fun with your grandpop hunting…..I am scared of guns and really don’t want to look at or touch one….No offense.”
    This kid was ticked off and told my son to call his folks to come get him if he was going to be such a “p@ssy and a f@g!!!” He did, we came right away, and I got told off by the mother about “smothering my kids, and how are they going to learn ANYTHING in this life?” And….was told I’d better prepare my kid because once HER kid told everyone at school what a “p@ssy” we were turning our son into, he was going to be mocked. Of course my son was very upset, but said he was afraid and wasn’t going to get bullied into something he didn’t want to do. We said we were proud he “stuck to his guns”, pun intended.
    He is now 17, and has tried some beer at a picnic, got caught and got in trouble. I’m not trying to paint him as my son: good…..your son: bad. Peer pressure is peer pressure, whether it’s alcohol, sex, drugs etc.

    • Cecilia October 7, 2014, 3:28 pm

      “My kid is going to tell everyone at school what a p@ssy your kid is”- sounds like a family of bullies. That mom needs to grow up and realize that all children are not like her child. One of my sons likes to hunt, the other doesn’t. Does his brother call him a “p@ssy”? No and he would be punished if he did.

      This reminds me of a story that 20/20 or Dateline did about guns and kids. They put an unloaded gun in a room and then put kids ( I think they were young teens) in the room and told them not to touch the gun. Of course they were going to. But one Mom said “My son would never touch a gun, never! He’s a good kid”. Guess who was the first one to pick it up and point it at others and pretend to fire it? Yep, her kid.

      • just4kicks October 8, 2014, 7:32 am

        I don’t know if it was the same show, but they also had a stranger drive up in an ice cream truck. He yelled out to the kids that he a puppy (or something) inside the truck, and who wants to pet it? The parents were watching from the inside, and all said the same thing…”My kid would NEVER go with a stranger!!!” Guess what?!? They ALL did! I think it was hosted by Savannah Guthrie of the Today show, and I thought she was going to have a stroke when her son was the first on board.

        • Cecilia October 8, 2014, 8:54 am

          I think I remember that! It was either the same show or a follow-up type show. I think in one scenario it was pair of siblings, one willingly got in the truck and the other just sort of looked in, but was unwilling to actually get in the truck.

          • just4kicks October 9, 2014, 10:21 am

            You are correct @Cecilia: I mentioned this to the kids, I made them watch that show, and they said one kid didn’t get in. But, they said, he did get admonished by his parents because he was still close enough to hauled into the truck if it was an actual pedophile. These are the same kids who don’t remember that I asked them to clean their rooms ten minutes ago….So go figure! 🙂

    • Angela October 7, 2014, 6:01 pm

      What a great lesson that mom taught her son: make your decisions based not on what you think is the right or best thing to do, but on what other people will say about you.

    • Ange October 8, 2014, 12:13 am

      Oh my goodness, what a horrible family. I think I know which parenting style I’d prefer….

      • just4kicks October 8, 2014, 7:38 am

        Yes, that was a real eye opener. I’m not a perfect mom and my kids don’t have shining halos on their heads, but I was floored at the mom’s comments! I will admit I’m very overprotective, but I fly under the “better safe than sorry” banner.
        My son did have some trouble at school after that incident, but more than one kid said to my son that said kid pulled the same “you’re such a f@g! Let’s play with my gun!!!” nonsense.

  • just4kicks October 7, 2014, 12:04 pm

    I’m sorry, I went off the rails a little bit.
    I support OP in being rightfully furious adults were playing with guns around her small child.
    I would’ve hit the roof!

  • Kay L October 7, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Also, I would say that Dan should never have asked to see it because Debbie’s husband, the owner of the gun, was apparently not home.

    If my husband had guns and a friend came over and was asking to see them, I would say, no. They aren’t my guns. And, if I had guns and was babysitting and someone who came over asked to see them I would say no because I was babysitting and could not supervise someone handling my firearms.

    Just because someone is ex military doesn’t mean they know how to handle all weapons or that they have the sense God gave them if they do. Obviously, Dan didn’t.

    • PJ October 8, 2014, 9:26 am

      When I first read this, I didn’t catch that Debbie’s husband was not there– I had initially placed blame on him as the owner. If Debbie was the one giving permission and access to Dan, then I have to place blame on her. She was acting as the owner of the gun but doing nothing to ensure its safe handling. She didn’t even intend to be in the same room as it! She needs to demonstrate some knowledge of gun safety and responsibility before she’s allowed to have keys to the locker. She would not be taking care of my kid(s) again.

  • kingsrings October 7, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Our world is full of sad incidents of people being killed or injured in shooting accidents that resulted out of stupidity and carelessness. Don’t add to those stories with stupidity and carelessness of your own. What admin said.

    • just4kicks October 8, 2014, 7:46 am

      When I was a little girl, my folks were friends with a couple who had three sons. We would get together for dinner every so often. One year after the holidays, we were supposed to go over for dinner at their house, and were getting ready to go when the mom called mine in hysterics because the ambulance was on the way to take their oldest son to the hospital. He had gotten a bb gun for Christmas, and was down at the partially frozen lake, shooting into the water. One of the bb’s ricocheted off a chunk of ice and came back right into his left eye. He ended up losing his eye and had to have a fake one put in. It only takes a second really injure yourself or others.

    • Syn October 12, 2014, 4:33 pm

      There was a thread on Reddit (which I avoid as a rule, but I saw a link and it sounded morbidly interesting) about people who had caused someone’s death. Someone wrote that they shot their older brother in the head when they were small – their uncle had accidentally dropped his gun between the car seats, the poster picked it up and, probably pretending to play, shot their brother through the front seat :/ A lot of gun negligence on the adult’s side in that story.

  • Willynilly October 7, 2014, 1:10 pm

    I agree with everything the admin says.

    My husband is a hunter and owns a gun. We have children. Both my husband and I have taken courses in gun safety and will have our daughters take safety classes when they are old enough.

    Once, after a shooting in the news, a friend of mine wrote a post on Facebook starting off along the lines of “sorry if I offend…” and went on to say she would be asking all parents of her kid’s friends if they had guns in the home and how they were stored. As a gun family I assured her that responsible gun owners would not be offended by her questions but rather would welcome them. Learning about gun safety, just like knife and stove safety, should start immediately upon the newborn being brought home and continue in age appropriate ways throughout life. I welcome knowing parents want to not only instill gun safety in the hearts and minds of their kids, but that those parents appreciate other parents who do likewise.

  • Library Dragon October 7, 2014, 1:37 pm

    POD Admin.

    There is definitely a protocol/etiquette to handling firearms. They are also safety issues. All the adults involved were also irresponsible.

  • Lanes October 7, 2014, 2:43 pm

    The timing of this story is so appropriate…

    Here in New Zealand less than a week ago, a man was retrieving an air rifle from his closet and didn’t know his 17-month old son had followed him into the room. The rifle was loaded, which the man was not aware of, and as he picked it up it went off… shooting the toddler in the head.

    That toddler is now in intensive care.

  • David October 7, 2014, 2:43 pm

    OP, I totally understand why you would be horrified and you stomach in knots.

    I think before I let my sister watch my child again I’d want to have a relaxed conversation about gun safety and how Dan and Sara need to not be around my child.

  • Jane October 7, 2014, 3:05 pm

    I come from a country where most people don’t have guns, so this situation is deeply shocking to me, although I have been pleased to see the safety consciousness of people in the comments. Mainly though I want to ask, what does POD mean? Lol. I looked it up and either Admin is passed out drunk or you want her to print on demand her comment. 🙂

    • admin October 7, 2014, 3:18 pm

      “Pod” started in the Ehell forum as away to agree with someone, like “two peas in a pod”.

  • Lil October 7, 2014, 3:08 pm

    No one should have to walk into a room to retrieve her child and see someone “haphazardly pointing it (a gun) in her general direction.” I applaud her for her self control at not completely freaking out as she would have had no idea if the gun was loaded or unloaded. It’s depressing that parents have to ask other parents if they have guns and if they are locked up properly before okaying a sleepover or playdate. Even though my dad was a gun dealer when I was growing up, this isn’t even on my radar. He specialized in fancy L. C. Smith shotguns and the like. I frequently walked over shotguns lined up on the floor, ready for him to put in their cases for the next gun show. They were inanimate, boring, and completely uninteresting objects to me and my siblings. I just don’t get the appeal. In retrospect, I can’t believe what a bonehead my father was to just have them lying around.

  • OP October 7, 2014, 3:17 pm

    OP here. This happened a while back, and luckily there have been no more safety issues involving my daughter or sister. To clarify because a couple people have asked: My BIL was not present during the incident, or at least he wasn’t there when I picked up my daughter. That should have been even more reason for Sis to not allow Dan to handle the gun, but Sis is a lot like me, trusting and non-confrontational. We’re both working on growing our polite spines though.

    • B October 8, 2014, 10:33 am

      “Sis is a lot like me, trusting and non-confrontational”

      I know she is your sister, but she was not being trusting. She was being grossly irresponsible, and it will help her grow her polite spine if she learns the difference, so she can more easily set boundaries.

      Being non-confrontational is not wrong in itself, but it is when it leads someone to put a friend’s enjoyment over a child’s safety. Your sister chose Dan’s pleasure over your child. I would have killed her if she were my sister!

  • Jays October 7, 2014, 3:34 pm

    My kids aren’t allowed to be in a home where I know there are guns without me or DH. They just aren’t. They make me extremely uneasy because of how easy it is for something like this to happen. My kids wouldn’t be going back there.

    Which leads to the etiquette question of how you ask non-family members if there are guns in the home. 🙁 We haven’t figured how to do that yet, but we’re just getting to the point of playdates without us right there, so I guess we’ll have to figure out something.

    (I have family members who hunt, so I know they have guns, but I’m with my kids at those homes; I don’t need to trust someone else to keep an eye out.)

  • NostalgicGal October 7, 2014, 5:41 pm

    A few years ago, one well known and established family (in this area) was having a get together and BBQ with others. We visited some friends of ours, who were going to this, to drop stuff off and all, and I know they were all looking forward to this. Why do I mention this? About two hours later, one of the sons, 13, went to a gun safe and removed a gun to show to a teen friend. Party was starting, food hadn’t yet; and. The gun was loaded (a chambered round it was said, missed.) And the boy killed himself while showing the gun off. My good friend, said the 8 year old brother was totally ignored in all this and the mister ended up gathering that kid up to just comfort him. He’d just lost his brother. So just a few hours after I’d seen the friends, they were in the middle of what was an awful accident. You never ever Ever EVER assume a gun is unloaded unless it’s been disassembled into all the assorted pieces. I grew up with guns, I owned guns; they are totally nothing to be slack with EVER. My dad was ex military, grew up with and continued to hunt. I didn’t pick up a gun unless I needed to, and if I lifted it past pointing at ground it was because I had a reason to take aim on something. Where I live now the NRA is alive and well, so is the second amendment. I agree, you have the right to your weaponry and I will defend that, but. I also expect you to be responsible and that I should be safe around you and your weapons. At All Times.

    An adult should have taken the gun away from the one waving it if they couldn’t keep it aimed away from everyone else. On the OP, the fact that she didn’t upset her daughter, just removed her from the situation… I actually applaud. The owner of the gun was derelict here, and the others weren’t far behind, shame on DAN for his carelessness.

    I do see OP updated, and the owner of the weapon wasn’t home. Then there should be a gun safe that nobody but the owner and the missus should know the combo to (for house defense) and if the gun owner isn’t home nobody’s going in the gun safe. Unless it’s home defense.

  • Cat October 7, 2014, 7:23 pm

    I own a coach gun (double-barreled shotgun used by the man “riding shotgun” in a stage coach) and a 38 revolver. When my housekeeper brings her three year old daughter along to my house, I put both guns and the ammo into my truck, lock it, and put the only set of keys in my pocket.
    In my state, it is illegal to have a gun in a house with a child under fourteen unless the weapon is in a gun safe.
    As to the “unloaded gun” issue. We had a police officer shoot himself in the head when he did not realize this semi-automatic handgun had a round already chambered when he removed the clip.
    His last expression showed total surprise.
    In another state, a police chief shot himself in the leg during a gun safety class in an elementary school. That’s one way to impress the dangers of guns. Guns are made to kill with. They are not toys.
    Your sister failed you. Forget the polite spine. When it’s a child’s safety at stake, you can be Satan’s significant other and raise Unholy Hell. “Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war!”

  • RooRoo October 7, 2014, 8:48 pm

    For those unfamiliar with guns and gun safety: There are four rules for gun safety, written by the great teacher Jeff Cooper many years ago.

    1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
    2. Never point your gun at anything you don’t want to kill.
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
    4. Know your target, and what’s behind it.

    If everyone obeyed all 4 of these rules, all the time, there would never be a gun accident.

    • Syn October 12, 2014, 4:42 pm

      I’ve never touched a gun, but somehow I’ve picked these up anyway. Makes me cringe how often I see all rules violated on tv shows.

  • RigaToni October 7, 2014, 10:05 pm

    My husband owns many guns, and I helped him teach gun safety courses for a few years.

    I agree that there are etiquette issues involved and there are also safety issues involved.

    I do not agree that the husband in this story is at fault in any way. If the guns are properly stored, and Debbie said Dan could look at the gun, the husband is not at fault.

    Debbie, however, is as much at fault as Dan. We do not point out a gun and say “go ahead and look at it.” We go to the gun, we point it in a safe direction, and we make sure the gun is unloaded. Then we hand the gun to the person who wants to look at it, unloaded, all the while pointing in a safe direction. Remember, we just checked to see it was unloaded, but we still always keep the direction of the muzzle somewhere away from people. ( There’s a whole science to looking around a room and figuring out the safest direction to point.)

    If I were in the house without my husband, but I knew a friend wanted to look at a particular gun (and I was certain they were trustworthy and whatnot), I would have no problem allowing them to look at the gun, handle it, and pull the trigger. Examining trigger pulls is a thing gun people do. In fact, the smooth trigger is something we do to customize guns for other people. Cocking and “dry-firing” is acceptable given that the gun has been cleared (checked to see it is empty several times) and handed over in a safe direction. There are other considerations, like whether the particular gun can be damaged by dry-firing… but that’s a different story.

    The important part of all this is that the responsible person/owner is the person to hand the gun to the friend. You watch carefully how they handle the gun every second. You stand close. The moment the friend makes a motion to point in an unsafe direction or something similar, you put your hand out to direct the gun in a safe direction and say something like “whoah! watch that muzzle.” In a friendly tone. Anything more dangerous than a drifting direction and you do as the admin said and retrieve the gun forcibly. After a while you get to know someone’s gun safety habits and you can relax when you know that they are safe all the time.

    • Cecilia October 8, 2014, 9:25 am

      I don’t think the husband was at fault. I think you should not ask to examine a gun when the actual owner, in this case the husband, is not at home, especially since there was a small child in the home. I think someone up-thread mentioned about kids seeing people examining guns and think of it as playing and then tragic accidents happen.

      I did wonder about the dry-firing.

    • PJ October 8, 2014, 9:39 am

      I agree very much with all of this. My dad taught me this protocol and enforced it by always always always following it. Something that made a big impression on me was the first time he handed a gun to me he checked it to ensure it was unloaded, then he showed me that it was unloaded– and let me know that if I were to hold a gun, not only will any responsible owner verify that it is unloaded, but when accepting it into my own hands that I had a responsibility to check it again with my own eyes. He still stayed close and still watched me like a hawk, but he was very clear that he wasn’t going to let anyone handle one of his guns unless they were going to be every bit as safe with them as he.

  • girl_with_all_the_yarn October 8, 2014, 6:27 am

    My sister and I are both gun owners with concealed carry permits, full tactical training, 9mm glocks, one shotgun (that we do not actually own ammo for, but that’s okay because the sound of cocking it was enough to scare off my stalker ex when he found out where I lived), and several AirSoft guns that we use to teach basic gun safety for fun at church. If people treat the guns like toys, they get taken away. Period.

    None of these EVER come out in the house except for transport (or protection, as in the case of the ex – and no, he’s never come back). Friends ask if they can play with the pellet guns, and the answer is no. They ask if they can see our guns. No. The guns are locked up indoors.

    Guns are not toys, and if you get into the habit of treating any gun other than a water gun as a toy, you will treat all guns as toys. When you get into the habit of treating guns as toys, you put someone’s life at risk.

    What on earth was Dan thinking when he started playing around with that thing?

  • rachel October 8, 2014, 10:43 pm

    Well-said, admin.