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Firearms training: what is actually taught?
  1. David Hemenway1,
  2. Steven Rausher2,
  3. Pina Violano3,
  4. Toby A Raybould4,
  5. Catherine W Barber1
  1. 1 Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2 McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
  3. 3 Department of Injury Prevention, Community Outreach & Research, Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  4. 4 Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor David Hemenway, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA; hemenway{at}


Introduction Firearm safety instructors and public health professionals are natural allies in the quest to prevent firearm injuries. We audited basic firearm classes to provide information that can help familiarise public health professionals and others with the content covered.

Methods With the advice of expert instructors, we created an audit form. Volunteers audited 20 basic firearm classes in seven north-eastern states.

Results All trainers covered a wide variety of safety issues. Some specific basics were covered in 90+% of the classes, including how to safely load/unload a gun, keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and being aware of your target and what is behind it. In 50%–75% of the classes, the trainer covered topics such as operating a safety, clearing jams and cartridge malfunctions, and recommended storing guns unloaded and locked when not in use. Few instructors covered firearm suicide prevention (10%) or domestic violence (10%). Most encouraged gun ownership, gun carrying, gun use in self-defence and membership in a gun rights group.

Discussion From a public health standpoint, we would like to see more instructors covering topics such as firearm suicide and alternatives to gun use in self-defence, and to recommend safer storage of firearms.

  • Training
  • Firearm
  • Suicide/self?harm

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  • Contributors DH conceived of the idea and wrote the initial draft. All authors participated in creating the training audit form. SR and CWB managed the auditing process. SR, PV and TAR undertook some of the audits. All authors helped analyse the data. SR, PV, TAR and CWB edited the manuscript and all authors approved the final content.

  • Funding This project was funded in part by the Joyce Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health Human Subjects Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All relevant data are included in the article.