Loaded guns in the home. Analysis of a national random survey of gun owners

JAMA. 1992 Jun 10;267(22):3033-7.


Objective: To identify factors associated with keeping guns loaded. Four hypotheses were tested: that people are more likely to keep their firearms loaded if (1) the primary reason for owning a gun is protection, (2) the gun is a handgun, (3) there are no children in the household, or (4) the gun owner has not received training in the proper use of firearms.

Design and setting: A random national telephone survey of gun owners conducted in December 1989. A screening question was used to identify individuals as gun owners. Participants were called at home.

Participants: 605 individuals (approximately two thirds of the population contacted) participated in the survey. All were 18 years and older, most were men (64%), and a few were nonwhite (12%). The majority owned more than one gun (77%).

Results: Three of the four hypotheses were substantiated by the data. Handgun owners (odds ratio [OR], 2.17; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.67 to 2.82), individuals who owned a firearm principally for protection (OR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.30 to 2.11), and people who lived in households without children (OR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.13 to to 1.82) were all more likely to keep a gun loaded than other individuals. Instruction in the proper use of firearms did not seem to affect the probability of keeping guns loaded (OR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.69 to 1.07).

Conclusions: The spontaneous nature of many firearm deaths has led to speculation that a substantial proportion of firearm-related morbidity and mortality could be prevented if easy access to loaded weapons were reduced through appropriate storage practices. Our findings show that a significant proportion of gun owners disregard basic safety procedures. However, without information on the specific content of safety instruction, we cannot say that education about safe storage practices is ineffective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Child
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Random Allocation