(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) When Jeanne Phillips, the columnist behind "Dear Abby," said parents asking about guns in the home before playdates was "off-putting," anti-gun lobbyists chastised her.
She modified her original position on June 27, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said they pushed Phillips into changing her stance. But Breitbart.com said the Brady Campaign "shamed" Phillips into being pro-gun control.
Phillips is an advice columnist, but on this issue she was more concerned with telling readers and lobbyists what they wanted to hear rather than her opinion.
"To the large number of readers who disagreed with my answer to 'First-Time Mom in New Jersey:' I have heard you loud and clear. 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 said parents should also ask about prescription medicines and caustic chemicals in the house and whether the children will be under parental supervision. Phillips said parents should suggest playdates at their own house if other parents do not prove that their house is safe.
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While Phillips's concern for children's safety is laudable, her decision to single out firearms and chemicals misses the two greatest threats to kids. Unintentional drowning and motor vehicle accidents are a much greater threat to the safety of 1- to 9-year-old children, but Phillips did not tell parents to ask about car or pool safety precautions.
For 1 to 4-year-olds, unintentional drowning is the leading cause of accidental death, killing 390 children in 2015, according to the CDC. Meanwhile 50 children from this age group died from firearm-related deaths – the eighth-leading cause of death.
On July 31, Phillips posted some of the responses she received from people concerned with her response to the gun safety question. More than a month after the original post that started the controversy, Phillips added allergens and swimming pools to the list of things mothers should be concerned about.
One reader, Jessica Mowry, discussed the dangers of weapons: "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."
On Twitter, Open Carry Magazine showed that this appears like an attempt to make guns taboo and scary, rather than an opportunity to teach kids about proper firearm use and safety.
Ask about gun safety. "Are your kids trained to shoot, are they trained in safety, and do you allow untrained children in your home?"
- Open Carry Magazine (@OpenCarryMag) August 1, 2017
Another Twitter user pointed out the selective concern for children's safety.
No, I don't have a gun… But I do have a swimming pool, a Presa Canario, an alcoholic husband & cleaning products stored w/in reach. SO?
- LaurieForReal (@LaurieForReal) August 2, 2017
The anti-gun lobby praised Phillips' commentary on gun control.
"We thank 'Dear Abby' for taking the time to hear us out and use her platform to spread the word," Brady Campaign President Dan Gross said. "It's a simple question, but one that really does have the power to save young lives."