Firearm ownership and unsafe storage increase risk for suicide. Little is known regarding factors that influence storage practices and willingness to engage in means safety.
Utilizing Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program, we recruited an online sample of 300 adults living in the US who own at least one firearm. Firearm storage practices and openness to means safety measures were assessed using items designed for this study. Data were collected and analyzed in 2017.
Firearms stored in non-secure locations and without a locking device were associated with lower beliefs in the relationship between firearm storage and suicide risk. Fearlessness about death moderated the association between current secure versus non-secure storage and beliefs regarding firearm storage and suicide risk, in that storage practices and beliefs were more strongly related at higher levels of fearlessness about death. For both secure and locked storage of a firearm, there was a significant indirect effect of current storage practices on willingness to engage in means safety in the future through current beliefs regarding the relationship between firearm storage and suicide risk. Unsafe storage practices were largely associated with an unwillingness to store firearms more safely or to allow a trusted peer to temporarily store the firearm outside the home in order to prevent their own or someone else’s suicide.
Self-report and cross-sectional data were used. Results may not generalize to non-firearm owners. Conclusions: Firearm owners are prone to inaccurate beliefs about the relationship between firearms and suicide. These beliefs may influence both current firearm storage practices and the willingness to engage in means safety.