Her Son Went to a Sleepover and Never Came Home. If Only She’d Asked This Question

ASK day

In December 2011, Ashlyn Melton said goodbye to her son Noah as he headed off to a friend’s house for a sleepover. The Louisiana mom had no idea it would be the last time she ever saw her son alive. Hours later, when she received a call in the middle of the night that Noah was in trouble, she thought perhaps he and his friend had gotten caught pulling pranks on the neighbors. Nothing could have prepared her for what she saw as she pulled up to Noah’s friend’s home. In an essay on TODAY.com, Melton wrote:

Cop cars, an ambulance, fire trucks, and caution tape surrounded the house. I jumped out of the truck. Someone asked if I was Noah’s mother. Once I said yes, I was given the horrible news. Noah was shot by his friend, at his friend’s house, with an easily accessible gun.

Melton’s precious son was dead. Shot, she says in a video accompanying her essay, by Noah’s friend, with one of the four guns he had on his bedroom floor.

Photo: Ashlyn Melton/TODAY

Melton, a gun owner herself, was floored that the 13-year-old boy had access to loaded guns. She says that although her son Noah was raised around guns, their family guns were locked in a gun safe, and he did not have access to them. She says:

Noah was raised around guns. He went hunting for the first time when he was 3 years old. The difference between us and a lot of other gun owners is that we understand the power a gun can have when not in the right hands or is handled improperly. Guns should be locked and kept away from curious children. They were definitely not allowed in my son’s room.

None of the gun safety knowledge she had instilled in Noah saved him that night. He was, she says, “at the mercy of other people. And, sadly, I never imagined that other parents were not as responsible as I am. I never thought to ask his friend’s parents about how they stored their guns because I naively assumed everyone was like me.”

That’s why, in Noah’s honor and memory, Ashlyn wrote her essay on TODAY to publicize National ASK Day, which is today, June 21st.

Today, Ashlyn is begging parents to take the time to ask the adults in the other homes their kids play in and spend time in if they have guns and if so, if they are kept safely locked up and away from children.

“Do the other parents feel like you are invading their privacy?” Ashlyn wonders,  “I’m sorry, but asking about a gun in order to keep a child safe is not a privacy issue. Child death by negligence is far more important than the privacy issue.”

Ashlyn stresses that she is a gun owner and supports the 2nd amendment, but that child safety needs to go along with the right to bear arms. The absence of her son her on earth is a perfect example of that. The importance of ASK Day is underscored by the statistics. She says:

In America, one out of three homes with children has a gun, and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun. Every year thousands of kids are killed and injured as a result. The ASK Day (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign promotes a simple idea with the potential to help keep kids safe. It encourages parents to ask if there are unlocked guns in the homes where their children play.

When your child visits someone else’s home, please ask those parents if they have guns and if they are stored where children can get to them. Don’t worry about sounding insulting or overprotective. If I had asked, perhaps Noah would still be with us. Had those guns been stored with the safety of children in mind, I wouldn’t have to wake up to the reality of living in a world without my baby. Property can be replaced when stolen. Children whose lives are taken too early because of an unlocked gun cannot be replaced.

My own dad is a gun owner and I will never forget when I, as a curious child, found a gun in his underwear drawer when I was snooping around. I was little, maybe 5 or 6, but I remember clearly how UPSET he was when I told him I had found it. You better believe those were locked up tight after that. How lucky for all of us that it wasn’t loaded and that I didn’t try to shoot it. Even though I was a small child, I REMEMBER that so clearly…it was probably the most upset I ever saw my dad in my childhood. My parents were wonderful, responsible parents, really, the best a child can ask for. So if they can make that mistake, I am confident that ANYONE can.

Why Parents Should Ask About Guns

WATCH: She wants parents to ask a simple question, one that haunts her every day she’s lived without her son Noah, who went to a sleepover and never came home. http://on.today.com/2rBc4KL

National Ask Day is June 21.

Posted by TODAY Parents on Thursday, June 21, 2018

I hope you will join me on ASK Day today in asking the parents of your kids friends if they own guns and if so, whether or not they are locked up tight and out of reach of other children.

If you’re not comfortable asking so bluntly, lead the conversation by talking about your own home, saying something like, “I just wanted you to know before Nathan comes over to play today, that we do own a gun but that it is locked in a gun safe. How about you guys?” or “I just wanted you to know before Nathan comes over to play today that there are no guns in our home. Do you all have any, and if so, are yours in a gun safe?” I encourage you to do this not just today on ASK Day, but anytime your child makes a new friend and is headed to their home for the first time, even if it’s just for a birthday party. It may seem awkward, but with our children’s lives on the line, a little awkward is really worth the risk.

I hope you’ll watch the video above of Ashlyn telling Noah’s story and her reason for being a spokesmom for ASK Day. She hopes to honor her son’s life by saving others with one simple questions.

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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.