Firearm storage practices unrelated to childrens’ risk of self-harm

1. Millions of American children live in homes with firearms that are kept unlocked or loaded, or both, against American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations.

2. There seems to be no difference between firearm storage practices in houses with children with self-harm risk factors, and houses with children who have no self-harm risk factors.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children aged 10 to 17 years old, with firearms accounting for 40% of suicides in these ages. Per AAP guidelines, firearms in homes with children should be kept locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. In this study, the investigators used data from an online survey to assess the connection between having a child with self-harm risk factors (depression, ADHD, and other mental health conditions) and firearm storage practices. The results showed that about 1 in 3 US households contained firearms, and that this number is similar between households with or without children. Further, among those households with firearms and children, about 1 in 3 stored all firearms locked and unloaded, and this rate was not different depending on whether children had self-harm risk factors, or not. These findings are limited by self-reported data by were not specifically validated. However, the study provides important context for understanding suicide risk in the adolescent years as connected to firearm access.

Click to read the study, published today in Pediatrics

Click to read an accompanying editorial in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Beyond the trigger: The mental health consequences of in-home firearm access among children of gun owners

In-Depth [cross-sectional study]: Data was compiled from an online survey conducted by Growth for Knowledge. The survey was administered to a random sample of ~55 000 US adults and was available for any adult in the sample excluding current serving members of the Armed Forces. A total of 3949 of 7318 invited adults completed the survey. Important findings included the following: 34.8% of respondents’ households contained firearms (95% CI: 32.2-36.8), and there was no difference between households with or without children. Among parents who owned guns, there was no difference in storage practices if a child in the home had a history of depression, ADHD, or mental health conditions other than depression (34.9% [95% CI: 20.2-53.2] vs 31.8% [95% CI: 25.9-38.3]).

Image: PD

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