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Pediatrics. 1999 Nov;104(5 Pt 1):1059-63.

Firearms in the home: parental perceptions.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Division of Emergency Medicine, Egleston Children's Hospital, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



Each year, thousands of children are injured or killed from unintentional gunshot wounds. Discovering a gun while playing in the home places children at risk of being injured by the firearm.


To determine parental firearm storage practices and parental perceptions of the behavior of their children around guns.


Cross-sectional survey of parents of children from 4 to 12 years of age. A sample of 424 parents, bringing their children to one of five pediatric ambulatory care centers, were asked to complete a 20-point self-administered questionnaire at the time of their visit.


A total of 400 parents (94%) completed the questionnaire; 113 parents (28%) reported keeping a firearm (most often a handgun) in the home. Firearm owners were predominantly male, 30 years of age or older, white, and married. Of the gun owners, 52% stored their firearms loaded or unlocked, and 13% kept one or more guns loaded and unlocked. Three fourths of gun-owning parents believed that their 4- to 12-year-old child could tell the difference between a toy gun and a real gun, and 23% believed that their child could be trusted with a loaded gun. Although the majority of gun-owning parents (53%) endorsed safe storage as the best firearm injury prevention strategy, 61% of parents who do not own firearms endorse not owning guns as the best way to prevent pediatric firearm injuries.


A majority of gun-owning parents store their firearms loaded or unlocked, substantially underestimating the risk of injury to their children. Many firearm-owning parents trust their child with a loaded gun and believe that their young child can tell the difference between a toy gun and a real gun.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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