Firearm Exposure and Storage Practices in the Homes of Rural Adolescents

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Firearm Exposure and Storage Practices in the Homes of Rural Adolescents

Category: Firearm Availability, Firearm Policies, Suicide, Unintentional, Youth|Journal: Western Journal of Emergency Medicine (full text)|Author: C Jennissen, C Wymore, G Denning, J Liao, K Wetjen, K Wood, N Stange|Year: 2021

Introduction

Rural areas have higher rates of firearm-related unintentional and suicide deaths. Having access to a firearm greatly increases suicide risk. Safe firearm storage can be a major factor in preventing these tragedies. In this study we evaluated firearm exposure and storage practices in rural adolescents’ homes.

 

Methods

An anonymous survey was administered to a convenience sample of attendees at the 2019 Iowa FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) Leadership Conference. We performed descriptive, bivariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses.

 

Results

A total of 1,382 adolescents participated; 51% were males and 49% were females. Respondents were 13–18 years old, and 53% lived on a farm, 18% in the country/not on a farm, and 29% in town. Almost all (96%) self-identified as White/Caucasian. In their homes, 84% reported having rifles/shotguns, 58% reported having handguns, and 56% reported having both rifles/shotguns and handguns. Males were significantly more likely than females to report having firearms in their home (P<0.001). The likelihood of having rifles/shotguns was greater if living on a farm (odds ratio (OR) 4.19, 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.99–5.88) or in the country/not a farm (OR 2.74, 95% CI, 1.78–4.24) compared to those in town. Similarly, the presence of handguns in the home was increased if living on a farm compared to in town (OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.32–2.18). Rifles/shotguns and handguns were stored unlocked and/or loaded at least some of the time in 62% and 58% of homes, respectively. Those who lived on farms compared to in towns were more likely to have rifles/shotguns (OR 1.83, 95% CI 1.35–2.46) and handguns (OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.10–2.27) stored unlocked. For homes with unlocked rifles/shotguns, 46% stored ammunition unlocked. For homes with unlocked handguns, 38% stored ammunition unlocked. Among those aware of firearm storage in their home, 82% (802/974) reported at least one firearm stored either unlocked and/or loaded at least some of the time.

 

Conclusion

The vast majority of rural adolescents we surveyed live in homes with firearms, and a large proportion of those firearms are not stored safely. Widespread efforts are needed to educate rural families about the importance of proper firearm and ammunition storage.

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