Gun owner perceptions about firearm dangers suggest opportunities for improving gun safety

September 08, 2020

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- People who own guns and those living with gun owners are substantially less worried about the risk of firearm injuries than individuals living in homes without guns, says a new study by violence prevention experts at UC Davis Health.

The research team said that with the rise in gun purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic, this difference in concern about the risks of gun violence provides an important opportunity for better public health messaging.

The study, titled "Firearm ownership and perceived risk of personal firearm injury," appeared online Sept. 3 in the British Medical Journal publication Injury Prevention.

The researchers noted that individuals' perceptions of firearm dangers are in sharp contrast to evidence showing that those with access to firearms are more likely to die from firearm violence, including suicide, homicide and unintentional injury, compared to those without access to guns.

"People usually say they purchase firearms for self-protection," said Julia Schleimer, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist with the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP). "However, homicides from gunshots in the home are much more often criminal than self-defensive, and the risks of murder associated with firearm ownership are greater for women than for men."

Schleimer said this disconnect in awareness among gun owners and people living with gun owners about the actual dangers of firearm injury deserves more attention. She and her research colleagues suggest that more effective communications strategies could be developed to help improve firearm safety in the same way public health messaging about smoking, seatbelt use, and diet has reduced disease and injury.

The new study was based on data from respondents to the 2018 California Safety and Wellbeing Survey, which included the question, "In general, how worried are you about gun violence happening to you?"

The researchers found that about 58% of respondents reported being somewhat worried or very worried about gun violence happening to them. Yet, firearm owners were 60% less likely to be worried about gun violence happening to them, compared to non-firearm owners living in households without firearms. People living in households with gun owners were 46% less likely to be concerned about gun violence.

The study also identified people who were younger, female and non-white as feeling at greater risk of personal firearm injury.

"Firearm violence prevention programs should consider communications strategies rooted in the cultural contexts," said Schleimer. "In other words, to be effective, the messenger is as important as the message. This is important when informing gun owners and people living in households with guns about the risks associated with having a firearm in the home."

Firearm sales during crisis

Firearms are commonly owned for self-protection, and gun sales have surged in the U.S. amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Americans are experiencing increased anxiety, financial strain and disruptions to daily routines, including social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders. These factors, in combination with easy access to firearms, may increase unintentional shootings, suicides and intimate partner homicides, said the research team. In fact, most firearm deaths are suicides, not assaults.

"We need to understand the complexity of the people's perception of their risk for gun violence," said Garen Wintemute, director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and a co-author of the study. "This is particularly important during times of crisis, when the perceived need for safety increases significantly."
-end-
In addition to Schleimer and Wintemute, the other study co-author was Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz from the Violence Prevention Research Program and the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

This research was supported by University of California Firearm Violence Research Center with funds from the State of California. Additional support came from the California Wellness Foundation (2014-255), the Heising-Simons Foundation (2017-0447) and the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.

Article: Schleimer JP, Wintemute GJ, Kravitz-Wirtz N. Firearm ownership and perceived risk of personal firearm injury. Injury Prevention Published Online First: 03 September 2020. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2020-043869

University of California - Davis Health

Related Firearms Articles from Brightsurf:

68% of deaths from firearms are from self-harm, majority in older men in rural regions
A new study of gun injuries and deaths in Ontario found that 68% of firearm-related deaths were from self-harm, and they most often occurred in older men living in rural regions, pointing to the need for targeted prevention efforts.

Age restrictions for handguns make little difference in homicides
In the United States, individual state laws barring 18- to 20-year-olds from buying or possessing a handgun make little difference in the rate of homicides involving a gun by people in that age group, a new University of Washington study has found.

New study calculates alarming lifetime risk of death from firearms and drug overdoses in the US
A new study appearing in The American Journal of Medicine, published by Elsevier, calculates the lifetime risk of death from firearms and drug overdoses in the United States.

Research finds TSA may have missed thousands of firearms at checkpoints in 2016-2018
CATONSVILLE, MD, August 11, 2020 - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reported that it found 4,432 firearms in carry-on baggage at airport security checkpoints in 2019, and more than 20,000 firearms since 2014.

Study of US mass shootings, firearms homicides suggests two-pronged policy approach
A new study examined the impact of household gun ownership and concealed carry legislation on annual counts of mass shootings and homicides from firearms in the United States over the last 25 years.

Raising legal age for handgun sales to 21 linked to fewer adolescent suicides
Restricting the sale of handguns to those aged 21 or older is associated with a reduction in suicide rates among adolescents in the United States, finds a study published by The BMJ today.

Rural firearm-suicides impacted by socioeconomic, environmental factors
In an attempt to address the escalating rate of self-inflicted firearm injury deaths in rural America, researchers are proposing interventions to reduce these suicides be community-based and include programs to reduce other diseases of despair, such as heart and liver diseases, diabetes and accidental opioid overdose.

Research raises concerns about firearm access for people with dementia
Today, new research released from faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus looked at how caregivers address the issues of firearm safety when taking care of someone who has Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) and has access to a gun.

Military personnel at risk of suicide store firearms unsafely
Military personnel who are at a greater risk of suicide are more likely to unsafely store firearms in unlocked cabinets where they can access them easily, according to a Rutgers researcher.

Majority of US states and territories do not require day care providers to inform parents of firearms
Home- and center-based child care providers are not required by most states or U.S. territories to inform parents when guns are stored on the premises, according to a new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Read More: Firearms News and Firearms Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.