The famous columnist behind “Dear Abby” is backtracking after suggesting to a mother that asking other parents about guns in their home “may be off-putting.”
In her column from June 21, Jeanne Phillips (the daughter of the original “Dear Abby” writer Pauline Phillips who took over the column and still writes under the pen name Abigail Van Buren) replied to a reader who identified as a “first-time mom in New Jersey.”
The worried mom, who grew up with guns locked up in her house because her dad was a hunter, explained she had a toddler and was concerned about her daughter being in other people’s homes if they had guns.
“Where do I draw the line? Do I ask everyone whose house I’ll be going to whether or not they have guns?” she wrote. “What are the appropriate questions? 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.”
In her response, the “Dear Abby” columnist told the mother that asking parents whether they have guns and how they store them “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?” Phillips wrote. “I’m sure many of the parents will be glad to have some free time, and it shouldn’t offend anyone.”
It wasn’t long until readers shared on social media their disappointment in the advice, pointing out that telling the mom (and other parents who read the column) that asking about firearms is offensive puts kids at risk.
The “Dear Abby” response also sparked campaigns from the combined efforts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Everytown for Gun Safety. After Phillips released her advice, Everytown posted a letter on its site from Julvonnia McDowell, who lost her son JaJuan to a gun shot wound in 2016.
“My 14-year old son, JaJuan McDowell, was shot and killed by another teen playing with a gun while visiting family in Savannah for spring break,” she wrote. “A preventable tragedy that too often makes headlines. A preventable tragedy I will spend the rest of my life working to see no other family experience.”
Moms Demand Action and Everytown shared the letter on social media, encouraging supporters to add their names to the letter addressed to Phillips. McDowell also asked the “Dear Abby” columnist to reconsider the advice she offered and update the column.
“The truth is asking about guns in the home when sending your kid for a playdate is critically important to creating a culture of responsible gun ownership and keeping our kids safe,” McDowell wrote. “Asking those simple questions may even save lives.”
On Tuesday, Phillips acknowledged the backlash and tweeted she had heard everyone’s thoughts regarding her advice “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,’” Phillips wrote.
Both Everytown and Moms Demand Action celebrated the victory on social media and asked their supporters to send thanks to Phillips. In a Facebook post, Moms Demand Action wrote that “this is proof that we CAN change attitudes about guns in America.”
H/T Scary Mommy