Few American families that keep firearms in their homes store them safely, a pediatric researcher says.
Nearly 200 million guns are privately owned in the United States, and more than one third of all American homes report keeping at least one gun in the house, according to previous studies.
Researchers surveyed more than 3,500 parents in pediatric offices across the United States and Canada. A total of 23 percent of the families surveyed reported owning firearms, and close to one third of them reported safe storage practices.
“Over 70 percent of families surveyed reported not storing their firearms safely in their residence,” said Robert DuRant of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. “This concerns us a great deal because having guns in the home increases the likelihood that they will be used in a suicide or unintentional injury.”
Several patterns of firearm storage emerged from the study data, detailed in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, mostly influenced by firearm type, family socialization with guns and the age of the children in the household.
“Our research shows that unsafe gun storage is associated with families who were raised with guns in the home,” DuRant said. “They tend to be more comfortable with guns and are less likely to store them safely.”
“We also found that families who had children aged 2 to 5 years and owned long guns were more likely to store guns safely than families with older children,” he added.
Families with two adults in the home were more likely to own guns, the study found. Those in rural areas were more likely to own long guns and to store them unlocked but separately from ammunition.
Families that owned handguns were more likely to store the guns locked but loaded.
The National Rifle Association was unable to comment on the results of the study by the time this story was published.
DuRant encourages all pediatricians to talk with parents about safe gun storage practices. The safest practice would be to remove guns from the house, but if parents are unwilling to do that, they should lock them and store the ammunition separately, he said.
“It’s imperative that parents understand the necessity of storing guns safely in the home,” DuRant said.