We’ve all had “close calls” in our lives. The cement truck that roared through the red light and passed a foot from your front bumper. The time you almost fell off the ladder while cleaning the gutters.

But the meaning of “close call” or “near miss” varies with the situation. A plane crossing a pilot’s path at a distance of several thousand yards qualifies as a “near miss” in commercial aviation.

However, where firearms are involved, mere inches can make the difference between a string of curse words and a trip to the emergency room…or the morgue. Years ago, I once had a bullet blow through a leaf less than a foot from my right ear. Not something I will ever forget.

But another kind of “close call” happened to a shooting buddy of mine over the Christmas holidays. “Tom” (I promised not to use his real name) and his wife are in their 60s (hey, this IS Florida, after all), and were having a holiday party with some neighbors.

To their delight, around dinnertime, they got a surprise visit from their son and daughter-in-law, along with their three grandchildren, ages 5, 8, and 12. As usual, people were congregating in the kitchen or sitting in the family room, watching some sports program. Coffee, eggnog (with and without “octane enhancer”), wine, and beer were consumed in varying quantities.

All was well.

Until the 8-year-old, a boy, came down from the upstairs bedroom. Tom told me that the boy seemed uncertain, looking nervously from his mother to his father. When he looked at Tom, who was in the family room where he was sitting with several of the older men, he motioned the boy over to him, and asked, “What’s up, buddy?”

“Grandpa,” he whispered conspiratorially in Tom’s ear, “Daren has a gun.”

No surprise, Tom almost had a stroke, jumped up from his chair, and bounded up the stairs to the master bedroom. There he saw Daren, kneeling on the floor next to the bed, holding in his hands the fully loaded Smith & Wesson 686 that he had obviously retrieved from its “hiding” place in the nightstand. He was cradling it between his two hands, and thankfully, did not have his finger anywhere near the trigger guard.

Tom did not panic, but moved quickly to the boy’s side, then calmly but firmly told his grandson, “Daren, freeze,” as he gently took the gun from the boy’s hands. He said he let out a breath of relief that felt as if he’d been holding his breath…which he had.

Obviously, Tom was of course mortified, and spent much of our conversation verbally beating himself up. And as much as I like him, I couldn’t disagree—he’d forgotten some fundamental realities about kids and guns.

For starters, you can never “hide” a gun from a kid, ever. They will find it. When kids are around, unless your firearm is on your person, it should be rendered inoperative. How you do that is up to you. But do it.

And remember that whenever children find themselves in a new house, while the adults are busy chatting, the kids will be scouring every nook and cranny they can find. Keep that in mind, whether you’re the host or a visitor.

Finally, whether you have children in your life or not, be kid-conscious, always.

The alternative is simply unthinkable.