Community based program to improve firearm storage practices in rural Alaska
- 1Indian Health Service, Reno, Nevada
- 2Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle
- 3Injury Prevention Program, Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, Dillingham, Alaska
- 4Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Correspondence to: Dr David Grossman, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, 325 Ninth Ave Box 359960, Seattle, WA 98104, USA;
Objective: To develop and evaluate a pilot program to reduce unauthorized access to firearms by youth by distributing gun safes and trigger locks to households.
Design: Pilot intervention with pre/post-evaluation design.
Setting: Two Alaska Native villages in the Bristol Bay Health Corporation region of southwest Alaska.
Subjects: Forty randomly selected households with two or more guns in the home.
Intervention: Initially, a focus group of community members who owned guns was convened to receive input regarding the acceptability of the distribution procedure for the gun storage devices. One gun safe and one trigger lock were distributed to each of the selected households during December 2000. Village public safety officers assisted with the distribution of the safes and provided gun storage education to participants.
Main outcome measures: Baseline data were collected regarding household gun storage conditions at the time of device distribution. Three months after distribution, unannounced onsite home visits were conducted to identify if residents were using the gun safes and/or trigger locks.
Results: All selected households had at least two guns and 28 (70%) of the 40 households owned more than two guns. At baseline, 85% of homes were found to have unlocked guns in the home and were most often found in the breezeway, bedroom, storage room, or throughout the residence. During the follow up visits, 32 (86%) of the 37 gun safes were found locked with guns inside. In contrast, only 11 (30%) of the 37 trigger locks were found to be in use.
Conclusions: This community based program demonstrated that Alaska Native gun owners accepted and used gun safes when they were installed in their homes, leading to substantial improvements in gun storage practices. Trigger locks were much less likely to be used.