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Firearm ownership in California: A latent class analysis
  1. Julia P Schleimer,
  2. Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz,
  3. Rocco Pallin,
  4. Amanda K Charbonneau,
  5. Shani A Buggs,
  6. Garen J Wintemute
  1. Violence Prevention Research Program, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California Davis, Sacramento, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ms Julia P Schleimer, Violence Prevention Research Program, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA; jpschleimer{at}


Objective To examine whether firearm ownership and ownership-related motivations and practices can be classified into reasonably distinct types.

Methods Cross-sectional data on firearm owners (n=429) were obtained from the 2018 California Safety and Well-Being Survey, a state-representative web-based survey. We conducted a latent class analysis using six self-reported indicators of firearm ownership: (1) number of firearms owned, (2) types of firearms owned, (3) primary reason for firearm ownership, (4) firearm storage, (5) loaded handgun carrying and (6) high-capacity magazine ownership.

Results We identified five markedly different classes of firearm ownership. There were two classes of single-firearm owners and three classes of multiple-firearm owners. Only members of one class (9% of owners) were likely to have carried a loaded handgun and to own high-capacity magazines or assault-type weapons. Members of this class were also likely to own 5+ firearms, own for protection against people, and store a firearm in the least secure manner (loaded and unlocked).

Conclusion There were distinct classes of firearm ownership in California, and all higher-risk behaviours studied were exhibited disproportionately by members of a single class. This latent class structure, which may help identify higher-risk groups of firearm owners, could inform future research on risk assessment and on focused interventions to reduce firearm injury and death.

  • Firearm
  • Descriptive Epidemiology
  • Surveys

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  • Contributors JPS conceived the research question and study design, conducted the analyses and drafted the manuscript. GJW, NK-W and RP designed the survey instrument. NK-W and RP oversaw data acquisition and management. All authors contributed content expertise and to the conception and design of the work, interpretation of results, and drafting and critical revision of the manuscript. All authors have given final approval of the manuscript for submission.

  • Funding This research was supported by University of California Firearm Violence Research Center with funds from the State of California. Additional support came from the California Wellness Foundation (award no. 2014-255), the Heising-Simons Foundation (award no. 2017-0447), the Langeloth Foundation (award no. 1824) and the University of California, Davis, Violence Prevention Research Program.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement No data are available.