Firearm Storage Practices in Households of Adolescents With and Without Mental Illness

J Adolesc Health. 2017 Nov;61(5):583-590. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.05.017. Epub 2017 Aug 16.


Purpose: Safe firearm storage practices are associated with a lower risk of self-inflicted injury and death. Whether such practices and relevant beliefs differ between households of adolescents with and without mental illness is unknown.

Methods: We used survey and administrative data to perform a two-stage cross-sectional study of parents/guardians of adolescents who were 11-17 years, enrolled in a managed care plan in 2004 and living in a household with a firearm. Multivariable Poisson models compared the prevalence of three firearm storage practices between households of adolescents with (depression or bipolar disorder) and without mental illness (no psychiatric or substance use disorder), including whether all firearms were locked, any firearms were loaded, and all firearms were locked and unloaded. We used chi-square tests to compare responses to Likert items assessing beliefs relevant to storage practices between households.

Results: Adolescents with mental illness were present in 141 (50.5%) of 279 study households. Their mean age was 14.5 years, and 54.8% were male. The mean age of parent/guardian respondents was 47.0 years, and 17.9% were male. Respondents from nearly 70% of households reported that all household firearms were stored locked and unloaded. In unadjusted and adjusted analyses, there were no significant differences in the prevalence of three firearm storage practices or in beliefs relevant to those practices between households of adolescents with and without mental illness.

Conclusions: These findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that firearm storage practices do not differ based on household mental health risk factors for self-harm.

Keywords: Adolescent; Firearms; Injuries; Mental health; Suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Firearms / standards*
  • Firearms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wounds, Gunshot / prevention & control