Firearms in Homes and Children's Risk of Self-Harm

March 29, 2018

Article Citation

Scott J, Azrael D, Miller M. Firearm Storage in Homes with Children with Self-Harm Risk Factors. Pediatrics. 2018;141(3):e20172600.

First Dose

Prior research >10 years ago found no association between children's mental health conditions and firearm presence and, if present, storage practices in their homes. In this national household survey, firearms were just as likely to be present (43.5%) in homes with children with risk factors for self-harm (parent-reported child depression, other mental health conditions, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) as in homes with children without such risks (42.3%). Gun storage practices also did not vary by presence of self-harm risks.

Key Points to Remember

pictograph with statistics on households that report storing gunsSuicide is the 2nd most common cause of mortality for children 10-17 years old in the US, with firearms accounting for 40% of deaths (2015 data). Given known risks of firearms in the home for children related to intentional and unintentional injury, the AAP recommends firearm-free homes for children and that when firearms are present they should be stored unloaded and locked. This study used a national online panel survey of adults to determine the prevalence of guns in the home (34.8% of all households), which did not differ whether children were present (33.4%; 95% confidence interval 29.1-38.0) versus absent (34.9%; 29.1-38.0). Across households with firearms and with children for whom a parent respondent who provided health information, approximately 1 out of 9 children had risks for self-harm. In homes with these children, in 11.6% the firearms were stored loaded and unlocked, in 34.9% firearms were unloaded and locked, and in 53.5% firearms were loaded and locked or unloaded and unlocked. The frequency of these approaches to firearms were statistically similar in homes with children without self-harm risks.

Link to Research Article

Summary Author

Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP

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