Guns in the home are a factor in pediatric unintentional and intentional firearm injuries, yet the patterns of ownership and use are unclear.
Objectives. To describe the prevalence of firearms in households containing children who go to pediatricians, the types of firearms owned, the purposes of such ownership, the conditions of firearm storage, and the social correlates of ownership.
Methods. Survey of parents attending 29 (urban, suburban, and rural) pediatric practices in Chicago, New Jersey, Houston, Utah, Georgia, Iowa, and South Carolina for well or sick child care during a 1-week study period. The main outcome measure was ownership of rifle/shotgun and/or handgun.
Results. Gun ownership was reported by 37% of 5233 respondent families: rifles (26%), handguns (17%), and powder firearm (32%). Ownership varied significantly across practices and geographical locations. Thirteen percent of 823 handguns and 1% of 1327 rifles were reported both unlocked and loaded. Recreation was the most common reason for both rifle (75%) and handgun (59%) ownership; 48% of handguns were kept for self-protection versus 21% of rifles. In logistic regression models, predictor variables for firearm ownership included rural area, single family dwelling, at least one adult male, and fewer preschool children (for handgun and rifle); mother with at least 12 years education (for handgun), and white mother (for rifle).
Conclusions. The data presented suggest that US pediatricians routinely see children in families that own firearms, including a worrisome number that keep loaded and unlocked handguns. Until more detailed information becomes available, it is reasonable for pediatricians to be guided by these data, and so to counsel routinely about gun exposure.
- Received December 23, 1992.
- Accepted October 14, 1993.
- Copyright © 1994 by the American Academy of Pediatrics