Firearm Safe Storage in Rural Families: Community Perspectives About Ownership and Safety Messaging

Health Promot Pract. 2024 Jan;25(1):33-48. doi: 10.1177/15248399231166418. Epub 2023 May 6.


Firearm-related injuries are the leading cause of death among youth in the United States, and rates of firearm-related suicide in rural youth are more than double those in urban youth. Although safe firearm storage has been shown to reduce firearm injuries, little is known about how to culturally tailor such interventions for rural families in the United States. Informed by community-based participatory methods, focus groups and key informant interviews were conducted to design a safe storage prevention strategy for rural families. Participants included a broad array of community stakeholders (n = 40; 60% male, 40% female; age 15-72, M = 36.9, SD = 18.9) who were asked to identify acceptable messengers, message content, and delivery mechanisms that were perceived as respectful to the strengths of rural culture. Independent coders analyzed qualitative data using an open coding technique. Emerging themes included (1) community norms, values, and beliefs about firearms; (2) reasons for ownership; (3) firearm safety; (4) storage practices; (5) barriers to safe storage; and (6) suggested intervention components. Firearms were described as a "way of life" and family tradition in rural areas. Owning firearms for hunting and protection influenced family storage decisions. Intervention strategies that use respected firearm experts as messengers, refer to locally derived data, and that reflect community pride in firearm safety and responsible ownership may improve the acceptability of prevention messages in rural areas.

Keywords: firearms; health education; prevention; qualitative research; rural communities.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ownership
  • Rural Population
  • Safety
  • United States
  • Wounds, Gunshot* / prevention & control
  • Young Adult