If you keep a gun in your home, firearm safety experts recommend taking some basic safety precautions - locking up the gun, storing it unloaded, locking up the ammunition, and storing it in a location separate from the gun - to prevent injuries. Do these practices really work? Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle, Medical Examiner Offices of King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties in Washington, and Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, investigated whether gun storage safety practices reduced the risk of suicide and unintentional injuries in kids and teens.
By looking at hospital records and contacting medical examiners' offices, researchers identified 106 shootings involving kids and teens under 20 in Washington, Oregon, and Missouri. All of the shootings involved suicide attempts or unintentional shootings - none of the cases in this study involved assaults or homicides. Researchers talked to the gun owner (in many cases, the victim's parent) about:
- how many children lived at home at the time of the injury
- how the injury occurred
- the type of gun involved in the injury
- where the gun was stored in the home
- whether the gun was locked up
- whether the gun was stored separately from the ammunition
Researchers also called a random sample of 480 gun-owning households that also had children in the same counties. These gun owners provided similar information about their gun storage practices.
Overall, 82 of the 106 shootings were suicide attempts, and 24 of the shootings involved unintentional injuries. When the researchers compared gun-owning households, they found that guns from households where a child was injured were less likely to be stored unloaded than guns from households where injuries didn't take place. In addition, guns from households where a child was injured were less likely to be locked up, stored separately from the ammunition, and or to have ammunition locked up.
What This Means to You: Children who live in homes with guns are statistically more likely to be injured or killed by a gun, so if possible, remove all guns and ammunition from your home. However, locking up guns and ammunition, storing guns unloaded, and storing guns and ammunition separately could reduce the risk of injuries in kids and teens, according to the results of this study.
Source: David C. Grossman, MD, MPH; Beth A. Mueller, DrPH; Christine Riedy, PhD, MPH; M. Denise Dowd, MD, MPH; Andres Villaveces, MD, PhD; Janice Prodzinski, BA; Jon Nakagawara, MHA; John Howard, MD; Norman Thiersch, MD; Richard Harruff, MD; Journal of the American Medical Association, February 9, 2005
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2005