Dear Abby is normally a reliable and level-headed advice columnist, but she just gave out some of the worst advice in her column’s tenure when she told a mother not to ask about guns at playdates because other parents might think it was “off-putting.” Fortunately, she later retracted that advice and issued a correction.

The mother of a toddler wrote to Dear Abby to say that she was anxious about guns at playdates. Her father hunted and she grew up with guns, but those guns were responsibly stored in a locked cabinet. Only her father had the key, and the ammunition was stored separately.

How to ask about safety and guns at playdates?

Not all gun owners are so responsible, though, and the mother worries about accidents. She also worries about safety with the people she is trusting to care for her child. She asked Dear Abby how to ask other parents about their gun safety procedures.

 

“Do I ask everyone whose house I’ll be going to whether or not they have guns? What are the appropriate questions?” she wrote. “Do I ask where they are stored and who has access? What else should I ask? Or should I mind my own business? I know the questions won’t be appreciated by everyone because it will seem like I am questioning their judgment.”

That is perfectly reasonable. These can be uncomfortable questions, especially for a person who might have social anxiety, but her instincts were right. She should ask everyone if guns are in the house, and about storage and access.

Any responsible gun owner would keep their guns secured, especially around toddlers, and should not feel offended about being asked about it.

That’s why it was so shocking when Dear Abby replied that other parents might find those questions “off-putting,” and that the mother should just have playdates at her house instead.

Dear Abby called the gun-safety questions “off-putting.”

Dear Abby’s response, in its entirety, reads: “If you start asking other parents whether they have guns in their homes and how they store them, your questions may be off-putting. Because you are concerned for your child’s safety, why not offer to have the kids visit your house for playdates? I’m sure many of the parents will be glad to have some free time, and it shouldn’t offend anyone.”

That is idiotic. The mother can’t possibly not allow her child to go over to a friend’s house for her entire life. And if she never lets her kid go to another person’s house and insists every playdate happen at her own house, other parents and children will notice.

On top of all that, the idea that she shouldn’t ask about guns because it is “off-putting,” is ridiculous. If the people had a pool, it wouldn’t be “off-putting” to ask about pool fences and supervision before sending over a toddler.

The current Dear Abby is Jeanne Phillips, the daughter of the original Dear Abby. The current Dear Abby does not have children, which might be why the absurdity of a suggestion that all playdates happen at the letter-writer’s house did not immediately occur to her.

A lot of people objected to Dear Abby’s advice.

According to The Huffington Post, Dear Abby’s advice struck a lot of people as being bad and irresponsible. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown for Gun Safety both shared Dear Abby’s letter and asked for a retraction.

After the outpouring of criticism, Dear Abby reconsidered and wrote a correction, which she first posted on Twitter:

“I should have advised, ‘You are responsible for your child’s welfare. Part of assuring that your daughter will be safe involves asking whether there are weapons on the premises and, if so, what safety precautions have been taken,’” she wrote.

That’s much more reasonable and a good correction, and it’s good to see her make it. It’s refreshing to see someone change their mind and position after hearing more points of view. This sort of thing is why Dear Abby is usually such a reliable advice columnist. Sometimes she’s wrong, and she’s not afraid to admit that and change her position after more consideration.

(Image: iStockPhoto / monkeybusinessimages; KenTannenbaum)