Understanding female veterans' experiences and perspectives of firearms

J Clin Psychol. 2020 Sep;76(9):1736-1753. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22952. Epub 2020 Mar 30.


Objectives: Although firearms are the leading suicide means among female veterans, firearm research in this population remains limited. This study explored female veterans' firearm-related experiences and perspectives.

Method: Sixteen cisgender female veterans (ages 27-69) participated in qualitative interviews.

Results: Participants gained initial firearm knowledge and exposure in childhood and adolescence through older male family members. Military service led to broader exposure to firearms, which were perceived as important for survival and protection in a male-dominated environment, predominantly due to the risk for sexual violence. Following military service, the desire for self-protection motivated firearm ownership and storage practices. Participants perceived trust as essential to firearm discussions, preferring for family members to initiate such conversations.

Conclusions: This study provides insight into the context in which female veterans' firearm-related beliefs and practices develop. Interpersonal factors and various lifespan experiences appear to play a vital role in female veterans' firearm access, ownership, and storage practices.

Keywords: female veterans; firearm; interpersonal violence; suicide.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data