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.
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