Firearm Storage Practices and Risk Perceptions Among a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Veterans With and Without Self-Harm Risk Factors

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Abstract

Despite the disproportionate use of firearms in Veteran suicides and the well-established link between firearm access and suicide, little is known about how Veterans store their firearms or what they think about the relationship between firearm access and suicide risk. Using data from 2015 nationally representative online survey (response rate 60.9%), we compare characteristics of Veteran firearm owners with and without self-harm risk factors with respect to how they store their firearms and their beliefs about suicide risk related to firearms. Overall, one in three U.S. Veteran firearm owners store household firearms loaded and unlocked, one in twenty believe that a firearm increases household suicide risk, and one in four consider their loaded and unlocked firearm to be inaccessible to suicidal household members. Storage practices and risk perceptions are similar among those with and without self-reported suicide risk factors. Affecting risk perceptions may be a critical aspect of interventions addressing lethal means safety among U.S. Veterans.

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