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Third of Vets Who Own Firearms Store Them Loaded, Unlocked

Prevalence of practice linked to reasons for owning gun, perceptions about utility of guns stored safely


THURSDAY, Aug. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- One in three American veterans who own firearms stores at least one firearm loaded and unlocked, according to a study published online Aug. 27 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Joseph A. Simonetti, M.D., M.P.H., from the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues used a probability-based online survey of a nationally representative sample of veteran firearm owners in 2015 to examine firearm storage practices.

The researchers found that 33.3 percent of veteran firearm owners stored at least one firearm loaded and unlocked. There was considerable variation in the prevalence of the practice (9 to 65 percent) across individual, household, and firearm ownership characteristics; prevalence was strongly related to other firearm-related behaviors, such as carrying handguns; reasons for firearm ownership (e.g., protection versus other); the number of firearms owned; and perceptions regarding the utility of guns stored safely and whether guns make homes safer.

"The challenge we uncovered, although I think we already suspected this, is that firearm safety practices are strongly related to whether individuals keep their firearms for protection," Simonetti said in a statement. "We recommend that VA providers work on communication strategies to enable veterans to make informed decisions about firearm safety by balancing the perceived benefits of firearm access against the thoroughly demonstrated risks of that access for those with elevated suicide risk."

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