Statement of Purpose To support suicide prevention efforts, Colorado and Washington have online maps of locations willing to consider requests for voluntary, temporary firearm storage – including firearm retailers/ranges. With an increase in firearm sales and suicide risk factors during the COVID-19 pandemic, we sought to examine whether the pandemic led to changes in firearm storage requests and provisions.
Methods/Approach Between June-August 2021, the study team mailed surveys to all firearm retailers/ranges in Colorado and Washington State with questions including whether they provide firearm storage, the impact of COVID-19 on business operations and their willingness to store.
Results 139 firearm retailers/ranges responded to our survey (26% response rate). Retailers/ranges reported the most common ways COVID-19 affected business operations were inventory problems with ammunition (68.3%) and firearms (60.4%) and increase in sales (61.9%). When we asked retailers/ranges that have ever provided storage whether their willingness to do so changed during the 2020 pandemic, 84.2% said it was about the same, 7.0% said they were more likely to provide storage and 3.5% were less likely. We observed state differences in how COVID-19 affected firearm storage requests, with 30% of Washington retailers stating they received fewer requests for storage during COVID-19, compared to 8% in Colorado (P=.029).
Conclusion Overall, firearm retailers/ranges offering voluntary, temporary storage did not report major changes in their willingness to provide storage during the pandemic, and most did not report a change in frequency of requests, although there was a large increase in sales of firearms and ammunition. State differences in COVID-19 response may have contributed to variations in firearm storage requests.
Significance With increased firearm sales and risk factors for suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand the landscape of temporary firearm storage provision. Temporary out-of-home storage remains a viable option to reduce suicide risk.
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