Objectives: To estimate the national prevalence of firearm ownership and storage practices in the home, to compare storage practices in homes with and without children, and to analyze demographic characteristics related to firearm storage practices in homes with children.
Design: A 1994 random-digit dialing telephone survey. We weighted the data to provide national estimates.
Participants: English- and Spanish-speaking adults in households in 50 states and Washington, DC.
Main outcome measures: Ownership of working powder firearm(s) in home and/or vehicle and firearm storage practices in the home.
Results: Of 5238 households surveyed, one third kept at least 1 firearm in the home and/or vehicle. Of 1598 households with firearm(s) in the home and known firearm storage practices, 21.5% kept at least 1 gun loaded and unlocked in the home, 30.0% stored all firearms unloaded and locked, and 48.5% stored firearms in a manners classified between these 2 practices. Households with children were more likely than households without children to store all firearms unloaded and locked (41.5% vs 20.9%); households without children were more likely than households with children to store at least 1 firearm loaded and unlocked (29.8% vs 11.1%). Among households with children and firearms, there were regional differences with respect to storage practices.
Conclusions: These prevalence data show that children are potentially exposed to firearms in many households. This health threat illustrates the need for education about the issue of pediatric firearm injuries and for interventions to minimize associated risks. Health care providers should take advantage of opportunities to counsel patients regarding firearm safety in the home.