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Parents of Teens More Likely to Spurn Safe Gun Storage


BOSTON -- When it comes to locking away guns in the home, parents of teenagers are likely to loosen the precautions they may have taken when the children were younger, according to researchers here.

BOSTON, Aug. 9 -- When it comes to locking guns securely in the home, parents of teenagers are likely to loosen the precautions they may have taken when the children were younger, according to researchers here.

A telephone survey found that 41.1% of gun owners with teens ages 13 to 17 left their firearms unlocked versus 28.8% of gun owners who have children 12 or younger (P<0.05), reported Renee M. Johnson, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues, in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Gun owners who are living with teens are also more likely to keep guns loaded or loaded and unlocked, but those differences were not statistically significant, the investigators found.

The findings were based on a sample from the National Firearms Study 2004, which was a random dialing survey of 2,770 adults. This analysis was based on 392 responders all of whom owned guns and lived with children.

Pediatricians, the authors wrote, have been effective at delivering the gun safety message to parents of younger children. But these data suggest the need to for "more firearm safety education outside of pediatric clinics because many adolescents do not visit pediatricians or their parents do not accompany them to physicians' offices."

Almost 60% of the participants (58.7%) were men, and 78.5% were married. Two-thirds were ages 30 to 49, and 87.1% were white. The ages of children ranged from a few weeks to 17.

The number of guns in households ranged from one to 70, and 64.9% of responders said they owned at least one handgun. Most of the gun owners followed safe gun-storage practices, but 31.5% said they had an unlocked gun, 21.7% had a loaded gun, and 8.3% of the sample said they had at least one loaded, unlocked gun.

The authors wrote that their data suggested that parents are likely to become less vigilant as children age, perhaps believing that teens will "exhibit good judgment around firearms. This belief creates a situation in which adolescents have easy access to a lethal means with which to kill themselves or to hurt others."

Finally, the authors said campaigns aimed at promoting safe gun use and storage seem to be have hit the mark for parents of children younger than 13 but, they warn that in "our attempts to keep young children safe, we may be leaving behind adolescents, who are significantly more at risk for gun injuries than younger children."

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