Sally asks Suzy over for a play date. Suzy’s mother learns through neighborhood gossip that Sally’s family recently adopted a man-eating Bengal tiger named “Roscoe.” Ignoring the advice from animal experts, Sally’s parents have decided not to enroll the family in tiger training due to their busy schedules.

Instead of keeping this known killer in a cage, the family lets it roam freely in the house. Sometimes they put Roscoe behind closed doors when guests are over. However, 5-year-old Sally always seems to sneak her way into the forbidden room to show her classmates Roscoe’s shiny teeth and sharp claws.

The reason Sally’s parents decided to adopt Roscoe is for protection. They believe that simply owning an untrained beast will ward off any human predators who consider entering the house. Even though they live in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood, they feel one can never be too safe.

Suzy’s parents think it would be too awkward to decline a play date. They’ve heard of other parents refusing to allow children into Sally’s home because of the man-eating animal, and it caused tension in the neighborhood. After a long lecture about the dangers of Roscoe, Suzy’s parents hesitantly allow her to visit Sally.

An hour into the play date, the phone rings at Suzy’s house. Her parents answer to the sound of sobbing on the other end. It seems the warnings about Roscoe just fueled Suzy’s curiosity, and she could not resist a look at the beast.

Her parents will forever blame themselves for the loss.

Would you believe that nearly 40 percent of American households have a Roscoe in their midst?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Roscoes,” otherwise known as guns, cause twice as many deaths in young people as does cancer, five times as many as heart disease and 15 times as many as infections.

Despite the shocking statistics showing that household firearms are infinitely more dangerous to the people inside the home than any outside threat, gun owners still become indignant when the government attempts to moderate their Second Amendment rights. Many gun advocates justify their stance by saying the problem is not the gun; the issue is the irresponsible gun owners who leave weapons available to children.

However, without strict laws as to how firearms should be stored in the home, most guns are as unpredictable in their potential to kill as a man-eating animal.

Anthony Senatore, a 33-year-old father from Toms River, N.J., is a recent example from the ever-deepening pool of negligent gun-owning parents. On April 8, his 4-year-old son found a loaded .22-caliber rifle lying around the house. He took the gun outside to show his play date, Brandon Holt, and ended the 6-year-old’s life with a fatal shot. Despite being charged with second-degree endangering of his own children, and third-degree endangering of Holt, Anthony Senatore was free the night of his arraignment. He posted the $100,000 and walked out with his Second Amendment right to bear arms intact.

Did he learn his lesson? Possibly.

Did the parents of Brandon Holt learn their lesson? Undeniably.

As a new mother, these tragic stories strike a distinct chord. What if I unknowingly allow my daughter to enter a home like Sally’s or Senatore’s? Would I not be just as careless of a parent if I did not scrutinize the gun-control policies of the homes she visits?

With the inert state of gun control in government, parents like me are left finding ways to avoid a face-to-face encounter between our children and a metal barrel.

Parents need to qualify a house before entering by asking the following questions:

• Do you own any weapons?

• How do you store your weapons?

• Could you please check to make sure your weapons are securely locked before my child enters your home?

I am not asking because I believe the right to bear arms should be taken away necessarily. I am simply asking because the thought of receiving a phone call with news of my daughter playing with Roscoe keeps me up at night.



Melissa Schulte is a freelance writer and mother from ­Maple Grove.