Table 1

Themes related to financial barriers and facilitators to secure firearm and medication storage derived from qualitative interviews

Financial barriers to secure storage
The monetary value of firearms and medications makes owners less likely to dispose of medications, relinquish ownership of firearms or store firearms outside of their homes.
  • Firearms are expensive and often considered an investment, which makes firearm owners less inclined to store them offsite or relinquish ownership altogether.

  • Medications are expensive, which dampens enthusiasm for disposing of them but increases motivation to lock them up.

  • Veterans are motivated to store firearms or medications in safes or lockboxes to prevent theft and not necessarily for suicide prevention. A locking theft-resistant locking device may therefore increase uptake.

‘There’s a monetary value associated with firearms that could be necessary for the survival of the veteran.’
‘You have to understand that firearms are an investment.’
‘I don’t have…sketchy people coming into my house (who might) go to my medicine cabinet and steal my drugs for street value…But I understand I’m unique in that way…there are households that have that.’
The high cost of out-of-home storage and locking devices is a barrier to secure storage.
  • It is expensive to store firearms at a gun shop or to purchase preferred, high-quality locking devices like gun safes or desired lockboxes. This expense is a significant barrier to secure storage.

  • There is a preference for expensive locking devices like gun safes and those that are fireproof.

‘If they could make firearm safes available at a reasonable cost; because honestly that’s one of the biggest hindrances to a lot of veterans having their weapons locked up. The [expletive] is expensive! Like thousands more than the gun.’
‘If I did, it would be put in a fireproof safe which I can’t afford right now.’
Financial facilitators to secure storage
No-cost services or devices could help motivate secure firearm and medication storage.
  • Veterans would be more likely to return unused medications if doing so were easy (eg, stamps were not required) and cost-free, and even more so if they were paid per medication returned or provided with incentives.

  • The VAMC providing no-cost, high-quality locking devices or a no-cost location to store firearms might motivate veterans to store their firearms more securely and demonstrate that the VA is invested in their care. However, veterans were unsure that the VA would be willing to provide these resources due mainly to their cost. Some veterans also mentioned the importance of the veteran themselves maintaining control of the process (eg, deciding how they would store their firearms and who would have access to them).

‘I mean, truly, if there was a cash deposit on the bottles of pills then I’d be bringing all of mine empty, you know, like useless meds back up there to get my money.’
‘If it was something that was just provided to the individual like a lockbox I do think that could be beneficial. You know, just because then it’s still the individual maintains sovereignty over their life, you know, and their firearms…it’s an easy way to lock it up without a big imposition to the individual’s life.’
‘If the VA is willing to spend money on gun safes, I am willing to take said money and buy a gun safe. But that gun safe will be in my home. The VA will not have access to said gun safe.’
‘That would be nice if the VA provided us all with a safe. But that will never happen.’
Preference for receiving no-cost locking devices vs coupons for devices varies.
  • Some veterans preferred coupons to maximise their options of locking devices, but others preferred no-cost locking devices as receiving devices themselves would make the process easier and/or cheaper.

  • Coupons could be specific to a type of locking device, or veterans could be given a choice between the coupon and no-cost locking device.

‘It would probably be easier if they had like, a coupon to where they felt like they had some kind of control over…what they were getting.’
‘If you give them a coupon for a quarter of what the safe costs, how many of them are going to – well a lot of them are going to have the money – but how many of them are going to actually buy it?’
  • VAMC, Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.