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Inj Prev. 2017 Oct 7. pii: injuryprev-2017-042535. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2017-042535. [Epub ahead of print]

Firearms training: what is actually taught?

Author information

Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.
Department of Injury Prevention, Community Outreach & Research, Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Firearm safety instructors and public health professionals are natural allies in the quest to prevent firearm injuries. We audited basic firearm classes to provide information that can help familiarise public health professionals and others with the content covered.


With the advice of expert instructors, we created an audit form. Volunteers audited 20 basic firearm classes in seven north-eastern states.


All trainers covered a wide variety of safety issues. Some specific basics were covered in 90+% of the classes, including how to safely load/unload a gun, keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and being aware of your target and what is behind it. In 50%-75% of the classes, the trainer covered topics such as operating a safety, clearing jams and cartridge malfunctions, and recommended storing guns unloaded and locked when not in use. Few instructors covered firearm suicide prevention (10%) or domestic violence (10%). Most encouraged gun ownership, gun carrying, gun use in self-defence and membership in a gun rights group.


From a public health standpoint, we would like to see more instructors covering topics such as firearm suicide and alternatives to gun use in self-defence, and to recommend safer storage of firearms.


Firearm; Suicide/self?harm; Training

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: None declared.

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