Statistics on Guns in the Home & Safe Storage

Posted on January 1, 2012

Living in a home where there are guns increases the risk of homicide by 40 to 170% and the risk of suicide by 90 to 460%.1

Guns kept in the home are more likely to be involved in a fatal or nonfatal unintentional shooting, criminal assault or suicide attempt than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.2

Having a gun in the home is associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home, regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of guns in the home.3

Rather than conferring protection, guns in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.4

The relative risk of dying from an unintentional gunshot injury is 3.7 times higher for adults living in homes with guns, with handguns in the home posing a particular threat.5

States with higher rates of household firearm ownership have significantly higher homicide victimization rates.6

People who keep a gun in their home are almost twice as likely to die in a gun-related homicide and 16 times more likely to use a gun to commit suicide than people without a gun in their home.7

A study of firearm storage patterns in U.S. homes found that “[o]f the homes with children and firearms, 55% were reported to have one or more firearms in an unlocked place,” and 43% reported keeping guns without a trigger lock in an unlocked place.8

A recent study on adult firearm storage practices in U.S. homes found that over 1.69 million children and youth under age 18 are living in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms.9

Keeping a firearm unloaded and locked, with the ammunition stored in a locked location separate from the firearm, significantly decreases the risk of suicide and unintentional firearm injury and death involving both long guns and handguns. These safe storage measures serve as a “protective effect” and assist in reducing youth suicide and unintentional injury in homes with children and teenagers where guns are stored.10

The presence of unlocked guns in the home increases the risk not only of accidental gun injuries but of intentional shootings as well. One study found that more than 75% of the guns used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend.11

  1. Garen J. Wintemute, Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public’s Health, 358 New England J. Med. 1421-1424 (April 3, 2008), at http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMp0800859. []
  2. Arthur L. Kellerman et al., Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home, 45 J. Trauma 263, 263, 266 (1998). []
  3. Linda L. Dahlberg et al., Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study, 160 Am. J. Epidemiology 929, 929, 935 (2004). []
  4. Arthur L. Kellerman et al., Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home, 329 New Eng. J. Med. 1084 (1993). []
  5. Douglas J. Wiebe, Firearms in U.S. Homes as a Risk Factor for Unintentional Gunshot Fatality, 35 Accident Analysis & Prevention 711, 713-14 (2003) (finding the relative risk of dying from an unintentional gunshot injury to be 3.7 times higher for adults living in homes with guns). []
  6. Matthew Miller, David Hemenway, and Deborah Azrael, State-level Homicide Victimization Rates in the U.S. in Relation to Survey Measures of Household Firearm Ownership, 2001 -2003, 64 Soc. Sci. & Med. 656, 660 (2007). []
  7. Douglas Wiebe, Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated with Firearms in the Home: A National Case-control Study, 41 Annals of Emergency Medicine 771 (June 2003). []
  8. Mark A. Schuster et al., Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes with Children, 90 Am. J. Pub. Health 588, 590 (Apr. 2000). []
  9. Catherine A. Okoro et al., Prevalence of Household Firearms and Firearm-Storage Practices in the 50 States and the District of Columbia: Findings from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2002, 116 Pediatrics e370, e371-e372 (Sept. 2005), at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/116/3/e370. []
  10. David C. Grossman et al., Gun Storage Practices and Risk of Youth Suicide and Unintentional Firearm Injuries, 293 JAMA 707, 711-13 (Feb. 2005). []
  11. David C. Grossman, Donald T. Reay & Stephanie A. Baker, Self-inflicted & Unintentional Firearm Injuries Among Children & Adolescents: The Source of the Firearm, 153 Archives Pediatric & Adolescent Med. 875, 875 (Aug. 1999), at http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/153/8/875. []