Objective: To determine gun storage practices in gun-owning households with children.
Design: National random digit-dial telephone survey of 2521 households conducted in March 1999 through July 1999. This study uses a subsample of 434 households with children <18 years old in which a respondent reported either: 1) personally owning a gun, or 2) living in a gun-owning household but not owning a gun themselves. Respondents were asked whether any household gun was currently stored loaded, and, if yes, whether any gun was currently stored loaded and unlocked.
Results: Twenty-one percent of gun owners compared with 7% of non-owners reported that a household gun was stored loaded, while 9% and 2%, respectively, reported that a household gun was stored loaded and unlocked. Non-gun owners were significantly more likely than were gun owners to be female (87% vs 22%) and to report that they lived in a house with only 1 gun (70% vs 57%) and no handguns (51% vs 31%). Based on the reports of actual gun owners (n = 252), households with children <13 years old were significantly less likely to store a gun loaded and unlocked (multivariate odds ratio:.1; 95% confidence interval:.0,.4) than were households with teenagers only.
Conclusions: We find that among gun-owning households with children, non-gun owners report significantly lower rates of guns stored loaded and unlocked than do gun owners. These findings are consistent with recent studies that have found that married men are far more likely to report household gun ownership than are married women, and that gun users are far more likely to report that a gun is stored loaded or loaded and unlocked than are never users. Our findings suggest that non-gun owners, the vast majority of whom are women (87%), may be unaware that guns in their homes are stored in a manner that experts agree is unsafe. Our findings reinforce the importance of many pediatricians' current efforts to offer anticipatory guidance about firearms to gun-owning families, and, in addition, suggest that this guidance can be adapted depending on whether the physician is speaking with a gun-owning or non-gun-owning parent. In particular, because gun owners (mostly fathers) are less likely to bring children to the pediatrician's office than are non-owners (mostly mothers), physicians should take advantage of any opportunities that they have to address gun-related issues with parents who personally own guns. More commonly, physicians can encourage non-gun owners to participate more fully in household decision-making about gun storage by letting them know not only about recommended storage practices, but also that many non-owners may not know how guns are actually stored in their own homes. firearm, storage, children, survey.