Objectives—In the United States, firearm deaths are almost as frequent as motor vehicle deaths. Firearm unintentional and suicide death rates are raised in rural areas. This study examines firearm prevalence and storage practices in three different types of rural households.
Methods—Adults from a stratified random sample of 983 households in a rural Iowa county were interviewed. The χ2 test of independence was used to assess association between loaded, unlocked firearms and seven behavioral and demographic risk factors.
Results—Nearly 67% of respondents reported firearms in their households. Nearly 7% of households had a loaded, unlocked gun. Prevalence of firearms at home was higher while prevalence of loaded, unlocked guns was lower than reported in other surveys. Prevalence of loaded, unlocked guns in farm households, 10.5%, was about twice the level in town households, 5.5% (χ2 test, p=0.033). Having taken a gun safety course was associated with more than double the prevalence of a loaded, unlocked gun, 13.5% v 5.1% (χ2 test, p=0.001). The prevalence of loaded, unlocked guns in households with a handgun, 19.3%, was four and one half times higher than in households with a long gun only, 4.2% (χ2 test, p=0.001). Households with someone with a lifetime prevalence of alcohol abuse or dependence were about twice as likely as other households, 13.0% v 6.6% (χ2 test, p=0.004), to report having loaded, unlocked firearms.
Conclusions—Anyone interested in promoting safe storage of firearms in rural homes should consider these observations.
- rural population
- alcohol abuse
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