A few months ago, I found out that my father-in-law keeps a gun in the house. We were at my in-law’s home for Thanksgiving when the topic of gun control came up at the dinner table. Recently there was an incident in my husband’s hometown in which an elderly man fired a gun at some teens who were throwing trash in front of his home and — whether he intended to or not — the man killed one of the teens and seriously injured another.
Before I go any further, let me make something very clear. My father-in-law is very pro gun control. He’s a former city employee who has only ever worked to keep the community safe and livable. He definitely thinks there should be stricter background checks, that guns kill people, and he is very law abiding.
Even so, when he said, as though it were an afterthought, “I have a gun, but I’m responsible about it,” I was shocked. Stunned. He had a gun, no, wait, was keeping a gun right at that very moment in the house we were staying in with our small children.
“Where do you keep it?” I asked sheepishly.
He said he kept it in a drawer of his dresser in the walk-in closet he shares with my MIL. Side note: This walk-in closet is where my youngest child usually sleeps, in a pack ‘n play, when we come to visit. She was sleeping in there on this trip too.
“Is it loaded?” I asked, again knowing very little about guns and how they operate whether the bullets are handy or already engaged.
He said it wasn’t loaded, but the bullets were right there in the drawer in case he had to get to them quickly.
I was horrified. I mean, even if it’s not loaded, it’s still a weapon. A deadly weapon. A weapon that could harm us. This gun could still do something horrible to someone I love very easily if it was employed to do so.
To me, having a gun in the house is like keeping a poisonous snake in a tank in your bedroom. Or keeping dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin in the same place where you go to find your Advil and Tylenol.
Let the drawer give way just a bit and that danger is on the loose, or accessible, and it can seriously hurt or even kill someone.
My father in law is a smart man. He is a logical one too. But he is also a very stubborn man.
The whole incident made me think very hard about this issue. On the plane ride home from his family’s home, and that uncomfortable dinner, I divulged to my husband that I was thinking that we should stay in a hotel or at his friend’s house next time we were in town.
“My parents would never go for that,” he said. “We would have to tell them why.”
I asked him if he thought his father would ever ditch the gun if he thought it stood between him and a visit from his grandkids.
He didn’t know. And neither do I.
Guns are about to surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death of young people, according to the Center for American Progress. And each year, we learn of those horrific stories about a toddler getting a hold of a gun, like the case last year in Idaho where a toddler accidentally shot his mum in Walmart.