Background: Firearm injuries are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Evidence suggests that availability of guns in the home is associated with an increased risk of homicide, suicide, and unintentional injuries and fatalities. Our study examined five demographically diverse primary care practices in Oregon to determine the extent to which patients and members of their households might be at risk for firearm injuries.
Methods: Six hundred and four consecutive English-speaking patients who were at least 18 years old and seeking care at the five different practices were surveyed. Participants were asked about the presence of firearms in the home, methods of storage, history of firearm safety training, and history of firearm counseling by their physicians.
Results: Forty-two percent of respondents reported having at least one firearm in the home. In homes with firearms, 48% contained at least one firearm that was stored unlocked, and 26% contained at least one firearm stored loaded. Twenty percent of homes with children contained at least one unlocked firearm, and 10% contained a loaded firearm. Forty-five percent [corrected] of those homes with both children and firearms had at least one gun that was stored unlocked, and 25% [corrected] contained at least one loaded firearm. Those who reported having had formal firearm safety training were no more likely to store their firearms safely than those without such training. Only 3% of respondents reported that their physician had ever talked with them about gun safety.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that a substantial number of patients cared for by primary care physicians are at risk for firearm injuries.