Purpose Safe storage of guns is critical to suicide prevention. This study examines the extent to which law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and gun retailers (GRs) are willing to offer safe gun storage in a variety of circumstances, including mental health crises.
Methods We invited, with two follow-up reminders, all LEAs and GRs with storefronts in the eight-state Mountain West region to respond to questionnaires. We asked about current storage practices and conditions under which they would offer temporary storage. We also asked about their recommendations for safe storage. We weighted data to adjust for non-response.
Results We collected data from 448 LEAs and 95 GRs, representing response rates of 55% and 25% respectively. Most LEAs 74.8% (CI 72.1–77.5) indicated they already provide temporary storage, compared to 47.6% (CI 39.2–56.0) of GRs. LEAs were most willing to provide storage when a family member was concerned about mental health of a teenager (84.8%; CI 82.5–87.1) or adult (83.5%; CI 81.1–85.8) but less likely to offer storage when the reason was protection of visitors, for persons who may be travelling, or when no reason accompanies the request. GRs, while less willing to offer storage in many situations, were open to providing storage for some circumstances not favoured by LEAs. Both groups locking devices within the home but LEAs were slightly more favourable to storage sites (e.g., law enforcement, gun stores) away from the home.
Conclusion LEAs and GRs are important resources for gun owning families concerned about suicide, and possibly other risks associated with gun injury.
Significance and Contributions to Injury and Violence Prevention Science This is the first study to examine the practices of these key community resources for providing through voluntary and temporary gun storage as a form of injury control.