A new systemic review finds that when gun owners are given a safe storage device and some counseling, they will likely practice safe firearm storage. The study, “Effectiveness of Interventions to Promote Safe Firearm Storage,” was unable to draw definitive conclusions on the effectiveness of interventions to promote firearm storage in the home due to a scarcity of firearm research. The investigators did, however, offer suggestions for filling the gap in gun safety research.
Researchers from the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center analyzed household firearm safety interventions which educated or counseled gun owners on safe firearm storage. In some of the studies, participants were issued a firearm storage device, such as a handgun lock box or trigger lock. In these interventions where a gun owner was given a storage device, there was an increased likelihood that they would safely store their firearms.
The authors write that the findings are important in light of high burden of firearm injury and credible links between safe firearm storage and reduced injury risk in the home.
“Unsafe firearm storage is a public health and safety issue in the United States. Americans strongly support efforts to improve safe firearm storage – doing so saves lives,” said Dr. Rowhani-Rahbar.
Perhaps more importantly, however, was what they didn’t find: an abundance of firearm safety research.
“One of the most important things we learned while conducting the study is that we don’t know very much,” said lead investigator Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar. “There is a void in rigorously conducted randomized controlled trials surrounding this topic.”
The investigators write that this absence of scientifically controlled trials means they can’t definitively say under which circumstances these types of interventions are successful. Moreover, they suggest that effective gun safety interventions might require approaching firearm storage with the same attention to complexity as other healthcare interventions.
The review looked at seven clinic- and community-based studies published in 2000–2012 that provided education or counseling on gun storage. Three of these studies offered free firearm storage devices – in each study, safe firearm storage rates increased. Meanwhile, of the four studies that only provided counseling, only one showed an increase in safe firearm storage.
“While the immediate impacts of this study won’t likely influence policy,” he said, “it contributes to a slowly growing evidence base that will enable policymakers, public health practitioners and clinicians to make more informed decisions.”
Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, MPH, PhD: School of Public Health, School of Medicine, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center
Frederick P. Rivara; MD, MPH: School of Public Health, School of Medicine, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center
Joseph A. Simonetti, MD: School of Medicine, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center
Publication: Epidemiologic Reviews, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health