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Many Gun Owners Leave Weapons Unlocked at Home

TUESDAY, Jan. 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Four in 10 gun owners have at least one gun at home that isn't locked up, even if there are children in the home, a new survey suggests.

To come to that conclusion, researchers questioned nearly 3,000 people while they waited for a free gun storage device (lockbox or trigger lock) at public gun safety events in 10 cities in Washington state between 2015 and 2018.

While many of the participants emphasized the need for such gun safety events, 40% reported having at least one gun at home that wasn't locked up, 39% said they kept a loaded gun at home, and 14% stored all of their guns loaded and unlocked.

The presence of children in the home did not make a difference in how people stored their guns, the findings showed.

"Even in this population, which clearly had some interest in or awareness of firearm safety, there was a high prevalence of unlocked firearms," said study author Aisha King, who conducted the study while a graduate student at the University of Washington's School of Public Health and as an intern with Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center's INSIGHT summer research program.

The study was published in the February issue of the journal Preventive Medicine.

Storing guns locked and unloaded is associated with a more than 70% reduction in the risk of accidental and self-inflicted gun injuries among young people, the researchers noted.

The study did find that nearly all of the participants said they planned to use the free gun safety device within the following week.

Some gun owners believe that younger children don't know where guns are stored or how to access them, but that's not always the case, according to King, currently a project coordinator at Columbia University.

"A lot of times, the kids do know," King said in a university news release. "Also, guardians might think that training adolescents or older children is enough to keep them safe, that training means they don't have to lock their guns. Unfortunately, a lot of adolescents are at high risk of suicide, and unlocked guns add to that risk -- regardless of training."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on guns in the home.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Jan. 9, 2020

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