Patterns of gun owner beliefs about firearm risk in relation to firearm storage: a latent class analysis using the 2019 National Firearms Survey

Inj Prev. 2020 Jul 14;injuryprev-2019-043624. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2019-043624. Online ahead of print.


Background: Research on gun owners' risk-related beliefs has focused on how gun owners answer discrete questions about firearm risk. The current study is the first to use latent class analysis (LCA) to: (A) identify groups of gun owners who share patterns of beliefs about firearm-related risk and (B) examine whether class membership predicts household firearm storage.

Methods: We conducted LCA using the 2019 National Firearms Survey, a nationally representative survey of US adult gun-owners (n=2950). The LCA assigned gun owners to classes based on responses to four questions about firearm-related risk. Identified classes were included in logistic regression models predicting firearm storage, along with characteristics linked to storage in past research.

Results: Three classes emerged: (1) owners who believe that guns unconditionally make the home safer and should generally be readily accessible (47%); (2) owners who believe that whether guns make homes safer or less safe depends on context (34%); (3) owners who believe that guns do not pose a risk if stored safely (19%). In adjusted models, compared with owners in class 1, those in classes 2 and 3 were less likely to store guns loaded and unlocked (class 2: OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.39; class 3: OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.16 to 0.32).

Conclusion: Our LCA is a first step towards better understanding variation in patterns of beliefs among gun owners regarding the risks and benefits of firearms. Our results suggest that messaging aimed at promoting safer firearms storage might benefit from the empirically derived typologies we identify.

Keywords: epidemiology; firearm; suicide/self?harm.