It started around midnight when the homestay student got into the host's liquor cabinet and began drinking vodka. The family's adult son was visiting for the weekend - he brought his licensed handgun but forgot the storage case. So he placed the weapon in his nightstand. Without the son knowing, the homestay student took the gun and went onto the streets at 2 am.
A shot rang out - either the homestay student fired it deliberately or the gun went off accidentally. While the host family remained asleep, a neighbor heard the shot and called police. Officers arrived to find the drunken student carrying the gun and wandering down the middle of the road. Fortunately, they arrested him without incident - although the student could easily have been shot and killed by police.
The homestay coordinator was jolted out of her sleep by a call from the police at 3 am. Eventually, the police decided not to charge the student. Instead, he was dismissed from the college and sent home on the next flight.
This incident occurred in Washington State, but it could have been anywhere in North America. With guns posing safety risks, are homestay programs prepared? Some of the questions you need to ponder include:
- Do you allow people to host if they have guns in the home?
- Do you ask potential hosts on the application form about guns in the household?
- Do you ask how the guns are stored?
- Do you inspect the gun storage during the home visit?
Guns are an important concern. In Canada, about 22 percent of households have a gun. The number is higher in the United States - 37 percent. So that represents a significant number of potential hosts who may have a weapon.
Be sure to check your local regulations about gun possession and storage. In Canada, gun storage safety rules require that the gun:
- Be rendered in operable by a secure locking device; or
- Have the firing bolt removed; or
- Be stored in a locked case or room
In addition, ammunition must be stored separately from the gun. In Canada, gun owners are required to pass a safety course and obtain a firearms licence. If you decide to allow gun owners to host, you could ask for a copy of their licence as part of the application process.