While firearm-related injuries are the leading cause of death among US children between 1-18, and account for nearly half of suicides among young people, public health experts continue to struggle in identifying efficacious mechanisms to reduce and prevent firearm access for children. Currently 4.8 million children live in a home with a loaded and unlocked firearm and more than a third of adolescents nationwide say that they can access a loaded firearm within five minutes. However, the risk of unintentional or self-inflicted firearm injury is lower if all household firearms are stored locked. It is imperative for parents to be counseled on safe firearm storage practices, and this has been studied within various healthcare settings. Yet, little is known about the impact on the education of safe firearm storage counseling within the community. Also, temporary emergency storage can be a vital option for families in crisis.

We identified 130 firearm retailers and 31 firearm ranges in the Greater Houston Area and were able to successfully contact 66 retailers (51%) and 19 ranges (61%). Only 9% (n=8) of retailers and ranges contacted reported offering temporary emergency firearm storage. At point-of-sale, there was wide variation in the communication mechanisms employed in educating individuals on safe firearm storage practices including informational handouts, videos, posters, training classes, and verbal counseling. Collaborating with firearm retailers and ranges to introduce more consistent messaging on firearm safe storage at point-of-sale represents a novel approach to community-based interventions to firearm counseling and potentially suicide prevention.

Key Take Away Points

  1. Temporary firearm storage options in the community are rare, but presents an opportunity for future expansions.
  2. Firearm safety and safe storage is frequently discussed at firearm point of sale, but with wide variability in modality between firearm retailers, thus representing a new venue for health care providers to partner with retailers to develop improved messaging for safe firearm storage counseling at point of sale.
  3. Suicide prevention materials are rarely provided at firearm point of sale, which could be a new opportunity for intervention.

Author Biography

Sandra McKay, MD is a general pediatrician and Associate Professor with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and serves as the lead of the advocacy and injury prevention initiatives within the department of pediatrics. She mentored the project, did primary data analysis and authorship. Michael B. Bagg, MD is a pediatric resident with the University of Colorado. Zachary Tallackson, MD is a psychiatry residency with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. They co-lead the team on this project in the development, implementation as well as assisted in analysis and editing. Deepjanli Donthula, Bethany Russell, Nidha Sha, and Allison Petronzio are current medical students with McGovern Medical School. They worked collaboratively in the data collection and edits. Mike Henson-Garcia, MPH is with the University of Texas School of Public Health - Dallas Regional Campus. He assisted with data analysis and critical edits. Our team has collaborated across medicine and public health in order to bring a depth and breadth to addressing a novel area in firearm injury.