Firearm injury is the leading cause of injury-related death among youth and second leading cause of injury-related death overall in the United States. Our objective is to determine the impact of brief office counseling by family physicians on patients’ firearm storage habits.
Of the 1,233 patients who completed the enrollment questionnaire, 156 (13%) reported they had guns in their household and agreed to participate in the study. Postintervention survey instruments were completed by 127 (81%) of participants. Participants received either no counseling, verbal counseling alone, or counseling and a gun safety brochure from their physician. Firearm storage habits were measured at baseline and 60 to 90 days after intervention.
At the postintervention interview, 64% of the group receiving verbal counseling and 58% of the group receiving verbal counseling plus written information made a safe change in gun storage compared with 33% of participants in the no-intervention group (P =. 02). A logistic regression model controlling for demographics and gun ownership showed that compared with the no-intervention group, intervention participants were three times more likely to make safe changes.
Family physicians’ brief counseling efforts made a significant positive impact in the firearm storage habits of their patients. With a verbal or written recommendation, a significant improvement was observed in firearm storage.