Background Firearms contribute substantially to leading causes of death to US children ages 10–19 (suicide and homicide). Approximately 38% of US households have a firearm and many homes with children<18 years contain loaded, unlocked firearms. Educational interventions about safe storage, often paired with distribution of trigger/cable locks, have been suggested to prevent firearm injuries; further study is needed.
Objective To better understand knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and firearm storage practices among youth living in households with firearms to support development of interventions to lower unsupervised child access to firearms.
Methods We conducted focus groups (FG) of youth living in households of gun owners residing in 3 US states with high firearm ownership rates. Moderator guides framed discussions that included participant views about firearm storage, suggestions for messaging and dissemination methods for a safe storage campaign. Data were managed using HyperRESEARCH (v2.8.3). Transcribed data were coded to identify important themes. Prior to FG, subjects completed an anonymous survey to record demographic characteristics, gun ownership, use, and storage practices.
Results 6 FG were conducted, including 30 youth ages 12–17 living in homes with firearms. Practical firearms training including safe storage information was endorsed. Acceptable sources of safety information were military and law enforcement. Youth did not support prevention messages in medical care contexts. Youth reported detailed awareness of firearm availability in their homes and violations of family rules about gun handling. Means restriction was not perceived as an effective way to prevent suicide and other gun injury.
Conclusions Youth in households with gun owning parents supported safety education but their perception of risk from firearms in their homes was low. Firearm safety counselling was most acceptable from nonmedical sources and in context of ongoing training programs. Further education about the value of lethal means restriction is needed storage by this population.
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