Objective. American children's ready access to firearms contributes to high rates of firearm-related injuries. Understanding the factors that influence storage decisions is critical for prevention. This study examined the influence of geography and presence of children <16 years old in the home on firearm-ownership and storage decisions of northeast-Ohio residents.
Methods. Analysis was based on 522 responses to randomized telephone surveys of urban and rural households in northeast Ohio. Relationships between 4 dependent variables (firearm ownership, type of firearm owned, reasons for owning, and storage) and 2 independent variables (geography and presence of children in the home) were evaluated using odds ratios and multinomial logistic regression.
Results. Firearms were significantly more common in rural (31%) than in urban (13%) households. Twenty-two percent of gun owners reported securing all firearms with trigger locks or storing them in locked safes, drawers, or gun cabinets; 12% reported storing guns unlocked and either loaded or together with ammunition. Most gun owners (66%) reported storing all firearms unlocked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Rural respondents without children were approximately twice as likely as those with children to have handguns, but children did not influence long-gun ownership. In the urban group, the presence of children was not related to likelihood of firearm ownership. Having children in the home was not significantly associated with higher rates of safe storage for either group.
Discussion. These results illustrate the inadequacy of 1-size-fits-all interventions and highlight the need to better understand gun owners' reasoning about children and guns to design and implement successful interventions. Physicians and others interested in reducing pediatric exposure to firearms cannot be credible messengers on gun-safety topics if they cannot demonstrate an understanding of the issues from the perspective of patients and their families.