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Study: Most Firearm Owners Do Not Store Their Guns Properly

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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – Public health experts found more than half of gun owners in the U.S. do not properly store their weapons in the home.

Experts say it's the first step owners can take in preventing a gun tragedy from occurring.

Retired police officer John Imperato keeps his weapons and ammunition under lock and key.

"I like to keep the weapons in one safe, the ammo in another safe and all other equipment (magazines, etc.) in a third safe," Imperato said.

A national survey out of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds Imperato is actually in the minority:

"54 percent of gun owners do not store all their guns locked away in a secure manner," said Daniel Webster, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy & Research Director.

The survey defines safe storage as a locked gun safe, cabinet, or case.

Webster, the study's co-author, says self-defense is one reason why many owners don't follow safe storage protocol.

"They want to be able to easily access a loaded gun that they can fire rather quickly," he said.

But research shows gun ownership actually elevates the risk for homicide in the home…and increases the suicide risk.

"In the current context we're also concerned about teenagers taking guns from their home and carrying out acts of violence," Webster said.

Experts and owners agree - safe storage helps prevent tragedy and theft.

"I used to be a firearms instructor so safety is the first thing," Imperato said.

Researchers found taking a gun safety course also led to greater use of safe storage practices at home.

The study found gun owners were 44 percent more likely to practice safe storage if they have a child under 18 in the home.

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