Statement of Purpose Adults who identify as Protestant Christians are more likely to own firearms and store firearms less safely than those of other religions. Literature exploring how the connection between religious beliefs and firearm safety behaviors may influence openness to safety interventions is lacking. This study examines how Protestant Christians view the relationship between their religious and firearm beliefs, focusing on how it informs openness to church-based firearm safety interventions.
Methods/Approach Semi-structured interviews with 17 Protestant Christians were conducted August-October 2020, focusing on characteristics of firearms owned, carrying/discharge/storage behaviors, self-defense experiences, conversations with family/friends about firearms, Christian belief compatibility with firearm ownership, and openness to church-based firearm safety interventions. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using grounded theory techniques.
Results Participant perspectives varied on firearm ownership motivations and compatibility of Christian values with firearm ownership. Variation in these themes and in openness to church-based firearm safety interventions resulted in clustering of participants into three groups. Group 1 owned firearms for collecting/sporting purposes and intricately connected their Christian identity with firearm ownership, but they were not open to intervention due to perceived high firearm proficiency. Group 2 did not connect their Christian identity to their firearm ownership; some believed these identities were incompatible, so were also not open to intervention. Group 3 owned firearms for protection and believed church, as a community hub, was an excellent location for firearm safety interventions. This group also expressed protection of others as an act of Christian love and extended this notion to practicing firearm safety.
Conclusion The clustering of participants into groups varying in openness to church-based firearm safety interventions suggests it is feasible to identify Protestant Christian firearm owners open to intervention.
Significance This study presents a first step in coupling firearm owner characteristics with community-based, tailored interventions with promise for efficacy.
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