Background: Safer storage practices may reduce injury rates by limiting youth access to firearms.
Objective: To determine if a firearm safety counseling and gun lock distribution program improved storage practices.
Design: Community-based before-after trial.
Setting: Urban county in central North Carolina.
Participants: One hundred twelve adult gun owners recruited through a mass media advertising campaign.
Intervention: In the parking lot of a shopping mall, participants completed a survey, and were then provided with tailored counseling, gun safety information, a gun lock, and instructions to use it.
Main outcome measures: Firearm storage practices, assessed by survey and personal interview (baseline) and telephone interview (6-month follow-up).
Results: Most participants were white (62%), men (63%), had children (58%), and owned a gun for protection (74%). At follow-up, of the 82 participants, 63 (77%) (up from 39 [48%]) reported storing their gun(s) in a locked compartment (P =.004), 59 (72%) (up from 0) reported using gun locks (P =.001), 61 (74%) (up from 57 [69%]) reported storing their ammunition locked in a separate location, 59 (72%) (up from 52 [63%]) reported storing their gun(s) unloaded, and 6 (7%) (down from 15 [18%]) reported storing firearms unlocked and loaded. Participants with children were more likely at baseline to store weapons unlocked and loaded (38 [59%] vs 19 [41%]; P =.02) but were more likely after counseling to lock their weapons (29 [58%] vs 14 [44%]) and remove guns from the home (5 [10%] vs 0 [0%]).
Conclusions: This program prompted reporting of safer firearm storage practices, particularly among parents. Longer follow-up, verification of self-reports and correct use, testing of gun locks, and monitoring firearm injury rates after distribution programs are needed to establish the public health potential of this approach.