Academic Research

Research related to child access prevention and safe storage of firearms

As a community of physicians, academics, and concerned citizens, we are interested in evidenced-based solutions to these preventable tragedies.  Researchers are as well, and have published numerous peer-reviewed studies linking child access prevention and safe storage laws to reductions in child-involved unintentional shootings as well as studies related to the efficacy of gun safety training programs.

Below are a number of academic research studies and medical organizations’ policy statements related to  responsible firearm storage, child access prevention legislation, safe storage laws, and efficacy of gun safety training programs.

GAO Report – Programs that Promote Safe Storage and Research on Their EffectivenessUnited States Government Accountability Office (2017)

Key findings: Children who received instruction in gun safety were no more likely than those who did not to heed basic rules about what to do if they came across a gun — like leaving the room, not touching the gun or notifying an adult. Informational sessions or videos “did not instill consistent safe firearm habits in young children.” The NRA’s Eddie Eagle program did succeed at getting children between the ages of 4 and 6 to verbally repeat rules on what to do when they encounter a gun. But those same children were not significantly more likely than others who hadn’t gone through the Eddie Eagle training program to actually follow through with those behaviors when they encountered a gun. 

State Firearm Laws, Firearm Ownership, and Safety Practices Among Families of Preschool-Aged Children
Kate C. Prickett, MPAff, Alexa Martin-Storey, PhD, and Robert Crosnoe, PhD
American Journal of Public Health (2014)

Key Findings: Firearm legislation and CAP laws interacted to predict ownership and storage behaviors, with unsafe storage least likely among families in states with both CAP laws and stronger firearm legislation.

Firearm Injuries and Children- A Policy Statement of the American Pediatric Surgical Association
M. Denise Dowd, MD, MPH Robert D. Sege, MD, PhD
American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement (2012) 

Key Findings:Evidence supports the effectiveness of regulation that limits child access to firearms…Trigger locks, lock boxes, gun safes, and safe storage legislation are encouraged by the AAP.”

Parental Misconceptions About Children and Firearms
Frances Baxley, MD; Matthew Miller, MD, ScD
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (2006)

Key Findings: Children younger than 10 years were as likely as older children to report knowing the storage location (73% vs 79%, respectively) and to report having handled a household gun (36% vs 36%, respectively). 39% of parents who reported that their children did not know the storage location of household guns and 22% of parents who reported that their children had never handled a household gun were contradicted by their children’s reports. In other words, kids often know where firearms are stored in the home and have actually handled them much more than parents realize.

The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Non-Fatal Gun Injuries
Jeff DeSimone and Sara Markowitz
National Bureau of Economic Research (2005)

Key findings: Results from Poisson regressions that control for various hospital, county and state characteristics, including state-specific fixed effects and time trends, indicate that CAP laws substantially reduce non-fatal gun injuries among both children and adults (a unique point about this study is that it looked at non-fatal injuries, which are much more common than deaths). When CAP laws are implemented, self-inflicted gun injuries fall by 64 percent for youth age 18 and under but do not decrease for adults.

The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Unintentional Child Firearm Fatalities
Lisa Hepburn, PhD, MPH, Deborah Azrael, PhD, MS, Matthew Miller, MD, ScD, MPH, and David Hemenway, PhD
Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery (2005)

Key Findings: Most states that enacted CAP laws experienced greater subsequent declines in the rate of unintentional firearm deaths for children age 0 to 14 compared with states not enacting the laws; however when adjusted for firearm prevalence and state and national effects the laws were associated with statistically significant declines only in Florida and California. Florida’s law, which is the oldest and one of the toughest (violation is a felony) resulted in a 51% reduction in accidental firearm deaths among children in that state over the eight years for which there was data.

Association Between Youth-Focused Firearm Laws and Youth Suicides
Daniel W. Webster, Jon S. Vernick, April M. Zeoli, Jennifer A. Manganello
Journal of the American Medical Association (2004) 

Key Findings: “We did find convincing evidence that the 18 CAP laws adopted during the study period led to an 8.3% reduction in suicide rates among youth aged 14 to 17 years. Firearms are used in approximately half of all youth suicides.

Firearm Availability and Unintentional Firearm Deaths, Suicide, and Homicide among 5–14-Year-Olds
Mathew Miller, MD, MPH, ScD, Deborah Azrael, PhD, and David Hemenway, PhD
Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery (2001) 

Key Findings: A statistically significant association exists between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides.

State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms
Peter Cummings, MD, MPH; David Grossman, MD, MPH; Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH; and Thomas Koepsell, MD, MPH
Journal of the American Medical Association (1997)

Key Findings: CAP laws associated with a 23% decrease in unintentional shootings among children under 15 years old.

Research related to efficacy of gun safety training programs for juveniles

Teaching Safety Skills to Children- Prevention of Firearm Injury as an Exemplar of Best Practice in Assessment, Training, and Generalization of Safety Skills
Raymond G Miltenberger, Ph.D., BCBA
Behavior Analysis in Practice (2017)

Key Findings: A behavioral skills training approach, in which the child receives instructions and modeling and then rehearses the skills with feedback in response to a variety of simulated situations, is more effective than an informational approach that does not have the active learning component. In situ assessment is the only way to determine if the child will use the skills in response to a seemingly real safety threat. Skills learned through BST do not always generalize to the natural environment.In situ training is the most reliable method for producing the generalized use of safety skills across a number of skill domains.

Comparison of Two Programs to Teach Firearm Injury Prevention Skills to 6- and 7-Year-Old Children
Brian J. Gatheridge, MS; Raymond G. Miltenberger, PhD; Daniel F. Huneke, BS; Melisa J. Satterlund, BS; Amanda R. Mattern, BS; Brigette M. Johnson, BS; and Christopher A. Flessner, MS
Pediatrics (2004)

Key Findings: Both the Eddie Eagle gun safety program developed by the National Rifle Association and a behavioral skills training program that emphasized the use of instruction, modeling, rehearsal, and feedback were effective for teaching children to verbalize the safety skills message (don’t touch the gun, get away, and tell an adult). However, children who received behavioral skills training were significantly more likely to demonstrate the desired safety skills in role-playing assessments and in situ assessments than were children who received Eddie Eagle program training. In addition, in situ training was found to be effective for teaching the desired safety skills for both groups of children.