Background: Many youths in the United States have access to an unlocked firearm in their home, and accidental discharge of unlocked firearms is a prevalent cause of pediatric injury and death. Discussions between adult family members have the potential to positively influence firearm storage practices.
Purpose: In families with two parenting adults, we tested the following hypotheses: (1) firearms will be more likely to be stored locked and unloaded when both parties are involved in the storage decision, and (2) both parties will be more likely to be involved in the storage decision when they have better relationship functioning and less avoidant communication.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey using a stratified random sample of an area probability- and address-based panel. Participants were 749 adults aged 18-64 living in the United States with firearms and children in their households.
Results: Overall, 62% of families stored guns locked and unloaded and in 55% both parenting adults were highly involved in storage-related decision making. Families where both parties were highly involved in these decisions had 1.65 times the odds of storing firearms safely (95% CI = 1.21-2.27). Odds of both being highly involved in these decisions were much lower in partnerships with more avoidant communication (OR = 0.16, 95% CI = 0.08-0.32) and higher in partnerships with more relationship satisfaction (OR = 1.08, 95% CI = 1.05-1.12).
Conclusions: Safe storage is most likely when both parenting adults are involved in the storage decision. Further research is needed to determine how to support productive within-family communication and decision making about this issue.
Keywords: Communication; Firearms; Parents; Shared decision making.
Many youths in the United States have access to an unlocked firearm in their home. Accidental discharge of unlocked firearms is a common cause of youth injury and death. Discussions between adult family members have the potential to move families towards safer firearm storage practices. We surveyed 749 firearm-owning parents in the United States who live with a romantic partner and have at least one child under the age of 18. Nearly two-thirds of families stored all firearms locked and unloaded. In slightly more than half of families, the person responding to the survey and their romantic partner were both highly involved in storage-related decision making. Families where both parties were highly involved in these decisions were more than one and a half times more likely to store firearms locked and unloaded compared to families where both parties were not involved in these decisions. This shared involvement in decision making was more likely in higher quality relationships and in relationships where there was less avoidance of the topic of firearm storage. Learning how to support positive and useful discussions within families about firearm storage is an important direction for future work.
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