From the time my son was 4 years old, my husband and I have made it a habit to inquire about guns before we allow him to play at a new friend's house. We phrase our question gently but directly: "I know you probably don't like to talk about things like this, but I need to ask if you have a gun in your house." We usually explain that we're asking because of a family tragedy. Twenty years ago, my husband's teenage cousin was killed while he and a friend were horsing around with his mother's handgun. Needless to say, his death devastated the family.
When our son was born, my husband and I decided that along with asking questions about seat-belt use and inappropriate movies, we'd also always find out about guns. Because I ask, I've discovered some things I wouldn't have expected. I learned that, as homeowners without guns, we're in the minority on our block. I found out about a politically liberal mother who keeps a locked and unloaded gun in her home. And I know of another family who has several handguns and shotguns with trigger locks, and who says they keep the ammunition stored separately. Although I almost always feel nervous asking, not one person has ever seemed upset by my question. What's most remarkable to me is that before leaving a child in my care no one has ever asked me whether I keep guns in my home.