Firearm ownership in California: A latent class analysis

Inj Prev. 2020 Oct;26(5):456-462. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2019-043412. Epub 2019 Oct 10.


Objective: To examine whether firearm ownership and ownership-related motivations and practices can be classified into reasonably distinct types.

Methods: Cross-sectional data on firearm owners (n=429) were obtained from the 2018 California Safety and Well-Being Survey, a state-representative web-based survey. We conducted a latent class analysis using six self-reported indicators of firearm ownership: (1) number of firearms owned, (2) types of firearms owned, (3) primary reason for firearm ownership, (4) firearm storage, (5) loaded handgun carrying and (6) high-capacity magazine ownership.

Results: We identified five markedly different classes of firearm ownership. There were two classes of single-firearm owners and three classes of multiple-firearm owners. Only members of one class (9% of owners) were likely to have carried a loaded handgun and to own high-capacity magazines or assault-type weapons. Members of this class were also likely to own 5+ firearms, own for protection against people, and store a firearm in the least secure manner (loaded and unlocked).

Conclusion: There were distinct classes of firearm ownership in California, and all higher-risk behaviours studied were exhibited disproportionately by members of a single class. This latent class structure, which may help identify higher-risk groups of firearm owners, could inform future research on risk assessment and on focused interventions to reduce firearm injury and death.

Keywords: Descriptive Epidemiology; Firearm; Surveys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Latent Class Analysis
  • Ownership
  • Safety
  • Wounds, Gunshot*