Objectives: To examine the prevalence of household firearms and firearm-storage practices in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and estimate the number of children exposed to unsafe storage practices.
Methods: We analyzed data from the 2002 cross-sectional Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey of 240735 adults from randomly selected households with telephones in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Results: Nationally, 32.6% of adults reported that firearms were kept in or around their home. The prevalence of adults with household firearms ranged from 5.2% in the District of Columbia to 62.8% in Wyoming (median: 40.8%). The prevalence of adults with loaded household firearms ranged from 1.6% in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New Jersey to 19.2% in Alabama (median: 7.0%), and the prevalence of adults with loaded and unlocked household firearms ranged from 0.4% in Massachusetts to 12.7% in Alabama (median: 4.2%). Among adults with children and youth <18 years old, the prevalence of loaded household firearms ranged from 1.0% to 13.4% (median: 5.3%), and the prevalence of loaded and unlocked household firearms ranged from 0.3% to 7.3% (median: 2.3%); in each instance, Massachusetts had the lowest prevalence and Alabama had the highest. Findings indicate that approximately 1.69 million (95% confidence interval: 1.57-1.82 million) children and youth in the United States <18 years old are living with loaded and unlocked household firearms.
Conclusions: Substantial state variations exist in the prevalence of household firearms and firearm-storage practices. It is vital that surveillance systems such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System continue to monitor the prevalence of household firearms and firearm-storage practices so that future interventions to promote safe storage of firearms can be evaluated and more widely implemented based on their efficacy.