Public opinion about guns in the home
- 1Emory Center for Injury Control, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
- 2Ketchum Public Relations, New York
- Correspondence and reprint requests to: Dr Arthur L Kellermann, Emory Center for Injury Control Room 230, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA (email: )
Objectives—(1) Determine the frequency of gun ownership, acquisition, and transfer; (2) assess gun storage practices; and (3) compare the views of firearm owning and non-owning adults regarding the protective value of keeping a gun in the home.
Setting and methods—Over three different time periods (1995, 1996, and 1999) stratified, random digit telephone surveys were conducted in a five county area of metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. Five hundred adults (aged 21+ years) responded to each survey.
Results—The proportion of Atlanta area households reporting firearm ownership was generally stable over this interval (38%, 40%, and 35% respectively). The percentage of gun owning households containing a handgun (approximately 75%) was stable as well. In 1995, more than half of gun owning households kept one or more guns unlocked; since that time, the trend has been gradually downward. In 1995, 44% of gun owning respondents kept one or more guns loaded, compared with 38% in 1996 and 40% in 1999. A majority of respondents to all three surveys (55%) agreed with the statement “A home with a gun is less secure than a home without a gun, because a gun can be involved in an accidental shooting, suicide or family homicide”. Among five home security measures, respondents rated a burglar alarm most effective, and keeping a gun in the home least effective.
Conclusions—In Atlanta, many households keep a firearm for protection, but they are ambivalent about the associated risks. These findings suggest that education about gun safety should include a discussion of the risks of unsafe storage, and non-lethal alternatives for home security.