More than half of polled gun owners report unsafe gun storage practices, according to a survey published by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in late February.
The internet based survey, which polled 1,444 gun owners in 2016 on their storage attitudes and habits, found that 54-percent of respondents indicated storing firearms in an unsafe manner. The study’s parameters for safe storage included keeping all guns locked in a gun safe, cabinet, case or gun rack or, alternatively, storing firearms with a trigger or cable lock.
Assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research Cassandra Crifasi, PhD, MPH, said the results of the survey were alarming, pointing to household gun ownership as a factor in some homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings.
“Many bring guns into their homes for self-defense, but unsecured guns can lead to unintentional shootings, suicides, and tragic cases of troubled teens using guns to commit acts of violence,” Crifasi said in a statement. “The survey findings indicate a real public health emergency.”
In addition to attempting to unearth the methods by which gun owners stow firearms in the home, the study also looked to the attitudes driving gun owners’ storage. The survey concluded that firearms enthusiasts who received training in a class setting were twice as likely to engage in safe storage practices, while gun owners citing home defense as factor in their storage decision were 30-percent less likely to safely stow guns.
While the gun industry emphasizes and backs safe gun handling and storage through programs designed to educate firearms consumers, NSSF Senior Director of Communications Bill Brassard said getting gun owners on board can sometimes to be tricky.
“The majority of firearms owners store their guns responsibly,” Brassard told Guns.com via email. “That being said, some gun owners say they don’t use locked storage because they want quick access to a firearm for home protection. Others say locked storage isn’t necessary for them because there isn’t a child in their home. Neither is a reason to skip safe storage.”
Brassard pointed to the growing array of safe manufacturers offering a plethora of options that balance both access with safety. “As NSSF’s Project ChildSafe program points out, options exist for locked storage that allows quick access. And all gun owners should take steps to prevent theft of their firearms whether from home or vehicle.”
The GunBox is one such company, providing techy solutions, such as RFID and biometric options, to alleviate the conundrum of access versus safety. Tom Wright, president of The GunBox, said the biggest hurdle is convincing reluctant gun owners that safe storage doesn’t mean giving up gun rights.
“As a gun owner and concealed carrier myself, you want protection; but a traditional safe isn’t conveniently located,” Wright told Guns.com. “Gun ownership is a deeply revered right worth fighting for. Once gun owners realize we are on the same side and can provide that right without compromise, then it becomes a good idea. No one wants their weapon to end up in the hands of kids, grandkids or visiting friends.”
For many, the decision to lock up firearms is a personal one dependent on a bevy of individual factors. Gun owner Jason New told Guns.com his home features a difficult floor plan that makes owning a traditional safe challenging. New said he plans to balance the issue of access versus storage by eventually purchasing more safes to distribute inconspicuously throughout his home.
“I believe (guns) should be locked up when away from home. If my guns were stolen and they weren’t in a safe, I’d never be able to sleep at night,” New said. “Eventually, I’d like to own a safe in most areas of my home for ease of access in an unexpected emergency. My home layout is fairly complicated so running from area to area isn’t ideal.”
Gun owner of four years Amanda Stoltenberg added that lifestyle also plays a large factor for many gun supporters when making the decision to lock up their arsenal.
“You can never 100-percent be sure that you won’t have unexpected company or kids around or even a burglary. Things happen. Life is unpredictable. I think not locking up your firearms is a calculated risk,” Stoltenberg told Guns.com. “On the other hand an inaccessible gun is useless in any self defense scenario. If I were single without kids I, honestly, likely wouldn’t have them all locked away.”
A study published in the journal of Pediatrics in June 2017 indicating that nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds in the U.S. each year. Though unintentional firearms deaths and homicides among children are on the decline, the number of suicides by firearms has been trending upward since 2007, according to researchers. These unfortunate events are why the NSSF implores gun owners to safely store their firearms to prevent tragic accidents from occurring.
“A firearms owner’s most important responsibility is to keep their guns out of the wrong hands, including children and at-risk persons,” Brassard said. “Keep in mind that nearly two-thirds of all firearm-related deaths are suicides, not homicides or accidents. If you know someone is going through a difficult period, preventing access to firearms (and other means) can save a life.”
Brassard urged interested gun owners on the hunt for more gun safety tips, including where to pick up a free gun cable lock, to visit the NSSF’s Project Child Safe website at ProjectChildSafe.org for more information.