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Survey Says Over Half Of U.S. Gun Owners Don't Safely Store Their Guns

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A national survey conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found over half of gun owners do not safely store all their guns.

The internet-based survey is believed to be the first nationally representative sample in 15 years to examine gun storage practices in U.S. households. It found that 54% of gun owners  reported not storing all their guns safely.

The survey defined safe storage as all guns stored in a locked gun safe, cabinet or case, locked into a gun rack or stored with a trigger lock or other lock. The researchers say this definition is based on research showing these practices reduce the risk of unauthorized access or use.

"Household gun ownership can increase the risk of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings in the home, but practicing safe storage for all guns reduces these risks," says lead study author Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH, in a written statement. "The survey findings indicate a real public health emergency."

Crifasi is an assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

The survey also found that children under the age of 18 were present in 34%, of the homes. Gun owners were 44% more likely to say they safely store all their firearms if they have a child under the age of 18 in the home. 55% of gun owners with children under 18 reported storing all of their guns safely.

According to the study, states with child access prevention laws that require gun owners to make sure children do not have unauthorized access to their firearms report fewer firearm suicides among adolescents. Studies have also shown a decreased risk for self-inflicted injury among adolescents when guns are stored safely.

The stud says respondents cited concerns about home defense, gun safety training courses, and family discussions as factors that influenced how they stored the weapons.

"Many bring guns into their homes for self-defense, but unsecured guns can lead to unintentional shootings, suicides, and tragic cases of troubled teens using guns to commit acts of violence," said Crifasi in a written statement.  "Communicating with gun owners about the importance of safe storage is a challenging opportunity. If we are successful at improving storage practices among gun owners, particularly those with children in the home, we could reduce risks for gun violence and injury."

The survey also asked gun owners which groups could best communicate information about safe storage practices: 77% of respondents selected law enforcement as good messengers to teach gun owners about safe storage, followed by hunting/outdoor organizations (73%), active duty military (73%), military veterans (72%), and the NRA (71%). Physicians and celebrities scored lowest (19% and 11%, respectively).

"Storage Practices of U.S. Gun Owners" was written by Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH, Mitchell L. Doucette, MPH, Emma E. McGinty, PhD, MPH, Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, and Colleen Barry, PhD, MPH.

The full findings can be found in the American Journal of Public Health.

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