Men, women disagree on number of guns at home, new study finds

06/07/05

CHAPEL HILL Many couples with small children living at home disagree not only about how they have firearms stored but also about the number and types of guns they possess, a new study shows.

The study suggests that because of those firearm knowledge and reporting differences, which reflect a form of gender gap, gun safety counseling should be provided at hardware and home improvement stores, workplaces, shooting ranges, sporting events and other places men are likely to go, researchers say.

"That's because men are more likely to be the gun owners, and they are the ones most often responsible for storing weapons," said Dr. Tamera Coyne-Beasley of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Offering this counseling only in clinical settings such as doctors' offices is likely to be less effective for improving firearm storage practices and creating safer homes since mothers are the ones usually taking their children to the doctor."

Coyne-Beasley, associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted the investigation to learn whether men and women differed in their reports of gun ownership and storage practices.

Overall, the goal was to limit youth's unauthorized access to firearms and to help protect them against suicides and accidental shootings, which are common in the United States compared with other nations not at war. In 2001, for example, 233 unintentional firearm injuries occurred among children under age 6. During the same year, there were 2,118 firearm-related fatalities among those 18 and younger.

The new research consisted of telephone interviews with both adult male and adult female residents of households with children who had visited a hospital emergency department. Interviews with people married or living together took place not only separately for the first time but also on different days.

Callers completed interviews with 76 randomly selected couples across North Carolina from a larger study sample.

The investigators' report appears in the June issue of Pediatrics, a journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Among the findings were that 80 percent of males -- compared with 72 percent of females -- acknowledged that someone in their home owned a gun, Coyne-Beasley said. Eighty-two percent of men, but only 17 percent of women, said they owned all the firearms. Eighty percent of men and women reported that it was the men's sold responsibility to store the guns.

"There was only partial agreement between household partners on the number of firearms at home, the number of handguns and long guns and whose responsibility it was to store them," she said.

"Our research suggests that some men do not disclose to their partners that there are guns in the home," the scientist said. "The finding that women appear to have less knowledge about household firearms indicates that their ability to participate in decision-making may be compromised. Moreover, if women believe there are no firearms in their homes, or that the firearms are stored safely, they have a decreased incentive to participate in decision-making because they believe their home is already safe."

Co-authors of the new paper are Dr. Lorena Baccaglini of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, Renee M. Johnson of Harvard University's Injury Control Research Center, Dr. Douglas J. Wiebe of the University of Pennsylvania School of Public Health and firearm and injury center and Briana Webster, formerly of UNC.

Support for the study came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation.

A study Coyne-Beasley led and released in January showed that many U.S. residents who had young children were negligent in storing guns and poisonous materials at home, but those whose homes children only visited were significantly worse.

That research, conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Injury Prevention Research Center investigators, showed that in 55 percent of homes where young children lived, household chemicals were stored in places accessible to children. Such compounds were not secured in 74 percent of homes where children were only visitors, she said.

One third of U.S. gun owners with children under age 6 kept a firearm unlocked at home whereas guns were kept unlocked in 56 percent of homes where children visited, Coyne-Beasley said. The overall odds of reported unlocked storage of both guns and household poisonous chemicals were two and a half times higher in homes where young children visited than in their own homes.

In a related 2001 study, Coyne-Beasley and colleagues found that 44 percent of police officers surveyed kept their weapons both unlocked and loaded at home, which could put them and their families at increased risk for firearm-related injuries.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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