“I’m not going anywhere where I can’t bring my gun. I’ve got it here.”
It was halftime of the Steelers-Ravens playoff game and suddenly my ears were ringing with one of our guest’s admissions. There was a gun somewhere in my house.
While I was still prepping for the Steelers-Ravens game, two friends sat in my living room keeping me company while I cooked in the kitchen, the Cardinals-Panthers game streamed on a laptop perched on the open divider between the two rooms.
Somehow guns had come up and I knew out of the three of us one was a gun owner in the sport-target sort of way, the other against guns in almost all cases, my own gun ownership views leaning more towards the latter than the former, a product of my Rocky Mountain and Pennsylvania upbringing by parents who were firmly anti-firearms, even the parent who self-identifies as Republican. You want a gun for hunting? Sure, hunting rifles are fine as long as you pass a hundred background checks, only use them for hunting elk, deer, pheasants and whatever else you need a license to shoot, the hipster part of me thinking, “At least it’s tail-to-snout eating.” Pistols are an invitation to trouble and accidents, something a childhood friend found out the hard way when he played around with his father’s gun and shot his sister in the head when we were in middle school; a story my dad told about a drinking buddy who sat on his handgun (which of course went off) on a hunting trip and bled out into the back cushions of a Bronco for quite awhile before the man noticed he was so intoxicated. I’m small, so owning one for the idea of protection is a laughable idea at best as I’d easily be overpowered for it, and even my 6’3, 195 pound husband doesn’t want a gun in the home because he knows statistically, he is not not safer having one.
In the course of our chat we discussed the recent news of a two-year-old accidentally shooting his own mother in Idaho because he had pulled the handgun out of her ‘concealed carry’ purse and pulled the trigger. Such a shame, such a waste, and they had been a quote-end-quote ‘responsible gun’ owning family.
We had been discussing how mutual friend of six of the eight people in our home had put on his New Year’s party invite, “Bring love and a kind and caring spirit! That’s how we roll around here. (No guns, knives, attitudes, etc!) There’s nothing to prove here!”
It had been a strange thing to put on the invitation. Between the lot of us we’d been to thousand parties at our friend’s house over the past decade-plus and weapons had never been an issue. Huge blowouts with hundreds of people coming and going, and the only incident that ended up with any sort of proclamation was the “if it’s 5am and Andy Dick is just showing up it’s time to get the fuck out”-rule. (This of course is a good rule in general in Los Angeles where you are 2347-times more likely to have Andy Dick show up than be the one person who gets the coveted Bill Murray drop-in.) None of us understood why our friend felt the need to spell it out so bluntly, other than they were probably just trying to be super positive going into the new year.
But our friend’s partner went on, “That’s why we didn’t go to [redacted]’s party. I’m not going anywhere where I can’t bring my gun. I’ve got it here.”
The words buzzed in my ears. It was halftime. By this time I had downed a couple of drinks and was feeling the downturn end of a buzz from the low-dose edible I had eaten earlier in the day, but felt sober enough to know I didn’t like what I experiencing; this person was clearly drunk and was proclaiming having a gun in my home. I was frozen, unsure how to react, but my brain shouted, “What if something happens? This is all in YOUR FUCKING HOME.” Not but an hour before that a friend had dropped some food on the floor and when they tried to reach for it the Spaniel had protected what she saw as now hers by trying to nip at their hand. The dog was disciplined and isolated, apologies and embarrassment all around from us and our guest. How would I apologize away a gun accident?
I looked around, did not see this drunk person’s bag. Had they brought one in? In going over the evening with my husband later on, I had put their coats on our bed didn’t remember a bag and nor did my husband remember a bag when he returned their jackets. Neither of us remembered a jacket that would have felt heavy enough to even have a .22 in the pocket.
The second half of the game was a blur, Steelers losing, drunk friends jokingly yelling at each other, but my mind kept going back to the comment about the gun. This was the first time we had people over for football all season and only the second time we had more than two people over at once, the first time being a recent housewarming party last we finally hosted nearly a year after moving. When you finally have a bunch people over you worry about all the things that can go wrong. At the house party my husband worried despite what the foundation and general contractors had said, our built-out game room was going to collapse under everyone’s feet. It didn’t. Even in the middle of the AFC Wild Card game we didn’t even feel a nearby earthquake. We could feel secure with the house, but not our guests.
The next afternoon I searched Google for “what to do if a guest brings a gun to a party,” “what to do if a guest brings a gun to your home” and “what to do if a guest brings a gun.” Surprisingly, not a lot helpful results. Did I expect there to be a Real Simple or Martha Stewart etiquette post? A Vox explainer on local gun laws, private property and our liability if somehow the gun had gone off? I knew that if the Spaniel had hurt my friend with her territorial nip (coincidentally, that friend being a lawyer who would know these laws better than I do), any damages would be our fault. Had no idea what it meant for the gun liability. Could we be in trouble for an accident since we had provided the alcohol? Or could I be liable since I knew about the gun and had not specifically said, “no guns” and had not demand its removal from our property.
The one post I did find was from a gun owner discussing taking their gun out and about titled “Would you carry a gun to a friend’s house?” and the message was disturbing; if you think someone is going to be upset about you bringing a gun into their home, don’t tell them about it. Hide it in your suitcase if you’re staying overnight, keep your lips sealed.
So in not going to the party (and in doing so missing out on seeing good friends), they had made the responsible choice, if not kind of a lonely one. Somehow for this internet stranger or our friends “leave the gun at home and see your friends” was never an option.
Next weekend is a few days away. More games to watch, more food and drinks, more just hanging out, a new wrinkle. Do you not invite the couple where one-half only comes packing? Do you say to the unarmed half, “Hey it’s cool if you come but if your partner wants join, our house, our rules; no guns” and risk driving someone away because you don’t approve of their interpretation of the Second Amendment while on your property? Say nothing and hope for the best?
Or, this option I’m doing right now, write a passive-aggressive post they’ll most likely never see and create my own Google-ready “what to do if someone brings a gun to watch football” search result and invite my own social media echo chamber over for advice.
*Footnote: I realize someone can make the comparison between bringing a gun into my home and my mention of a edible marijuana. Those are for home, not friends’ houses (unless they ask you to bring it).