Who owns guns and how do they keep them? The influence of household characteristics on firearms ownership and storage practices in the United States

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Who owns guns and how do they keep them? The influence of household characteristics on firearms ownership and storage practices in the United States

Category: Behavior, Firearm Availability|Journal: Preventive Medicine (full text)|Author: B Brewer, D Hamilton, J Saleska, K Strobino, S Lemeshow|Year: 2018

Our paper aims to describe firearm-related behavior among American households and to quantify the influence of household characteristics on the probability of firearms possession and storage practices. Applying logistic regression techniques to data from the 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), we use separate models to estimate the effect of an array of respondent demographic characteristics factors on the likelihood that households will have a gun at home and, if so, whether they will keep it at either of two levels of risk. We find that rates of firearm ownership vary widely by household characteristics, including the state in which they reside. Simultaneously controlling for all of these factors scarcely diminishes variation in odds for ownership. Differences in the likelihood that owners will store guns unsafely are narrower and significant for fewer factors. Having children in the home scarcely affects the propensity to possess firearms but greatly reduces the chances a domestic firearm will be stored loaded and unsecured. Our findings support a consensus on the demographics of ownership but show more and stronger predictors of storage behavior than previous work. Differing dynamics of ownership and storage reveal the existence of two regional gun cultures. From these findings, we conclude that to mitigate mortality risks associated with guns in the home, encouraging safer storage by owners may be as effective as controlling sales. States and localities should test a range of promising but largely unproven interventions.

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