OBJECTIVES: To describe firearm storage practices in homes with children who have versus do not have self-harm risk factors.
METHODS: A cross-sectional analysis of a nationally representative probability-based online survey of US adults conducted in 2015 (n = 3949; response rate 55%). Respondents self-reported whether they lived with children and were a caretaker/health care decision-maker for a child. Household firearm ownership was ascertained for all respondents; how firearms were stored in homes with guns was asked of gun owning respondents only; all respondents were asked whether their child had a history of the following self-harm risk factors: depression, mental health conditions other than depression, or attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder.
RESULTS: Household firearms were present in 43.5% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 34.4–64.7) of homes with children who had a history of self-harm risk factors (n = 52), compared with 42.3% (95% CI: 35.2–49.7) of homes in which no child had self-harm risk factors (n = 411). Among parents or caretakers with firearms, 34.9% (95 % CI: 20.2–53.2) stored all guns locked and unloaded when they had a child with a history self-harm risk factors, compared with 31.8% (95% CI: 25.9–38.3) when none of their children had such a history.
CONCLUSIONS: Millions of US children live in homes in which firearms are left loaded or unlocked or both. A child’s history of depression, mental health conditions other than depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder does not appear to appreciably influence caretaker decisions about whether to (1) have firearms in the home, or (2) store all household firearms in accordance with American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations (ie, locked and unloaded).