WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Few families store their firearms safely, according to a pediatric researcher at Brenner Children's Hospital, part of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Robert H. DuRant, Ph.D., and his colleagues' research study results are published in the June issue of Pediatrics.
"Over 70 percent of the families surveyed reported not storing their firearms safely in their residence," DuRant said. "This concerns us a great deal because having guns in the home increases the likelihood that they will be used in a suicide or unintentional injury. It's imperative that parents understand the necessity of storing guns safely in the home."
Storage patterns are most influenced by firearm type, family socialization with guns and the age of the child, DuRant said.
"Our research shows that unsafe gun storage is associated with families who were raised with guns in the home," he said. "They tend to be more comfortable with guns and are less likely to store them safely. We also found that families who had children aged 2 to 5 years and owned long guns were more likely to store guns safely than families with older children."
"Our primary recommendation is that parents should remove guns from the home," DuRant said. "However, if parents are unwilling to do that, they should lock all guns with gun locks and store them separately from ammunition."
Firearm ownership was highest in families with two adults in the home, according to the study. Families in rural areas are more likely to own long guns and families who own long guns only are more likely to store guns unlocked but store ammunition separately from guns. Families who owned hand guns were more likely to store the guns locked but to have the guns loaded.
"We are encouraging all pediatricians to talk with parents about safe gun storage practices," he said. "We want to prevent unnecessary deaths."
DuRant and colleagues administered the survey to 3,745 parents in 96 pediatric offices in 45 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. The offices were part of the Pediatric Research in Office Settings group. The survey measured family history of guns in the house, firearm types, storage behaviors and ownership.
In addition to DuRant, Shari Barkin, M.D., Edward H. Ip, Ph.D., from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center; Joseph A. Craig, M.D. from Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics in Denver, Colorado, Victoria A. Weiley, M.I.S., from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Richard C. Wasserman, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of Vermont, also participated in the study.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Wake Forest University Health Sciences and Brenner Children's Hospital. The system comprises 1,238 acute care, rehabilitation, psychiatry and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" by U.S. News & World Report.