Original Article

Disparities in Firearms Ownership and Storage Practices in North Carolina

Authors: Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, Donna R. Miles, PhD, Abigail C. Lees, BA, Scott K. Proescholdbell, MPH, Carol A. Ford, MD


Objective: Because household firearms pose a risk to children, this study examined firearms accessibility in North Carolina households with children.

Methods: In 2008, parents completing the North Carolina Child Health Assessment and Monitoring Program survey were asked how many firearms they owned and their firearms storage practices. Weighted analyses provided estimates of ownership and storage practices and examined variation by sociodemographics.

Results: A total of 37% of 2885 parents reported owning firearms. Whites (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 3.9 [95% confidence interval {CI} 2.9–5.2]), households with income >200% of the federal poverty level (aOR 1.7 [95% CI 1.2–2.5]) and married parents (aOR 2.4 [95% CI 1.8–3.4]) were more likely to own firearms. Ownership of more than one firearm was greater among whites (aOR 2.2 [95% CI 1.4–3.4]) and married parents (aOR 1.8 [95% CI 1.5–2.8]) than other groups. The number of firearms owned increased with children’s age. Although most parents reported keeping firearms locked and unloaded (57%), many reported unsafe storage practices, which varied by race/ethnicity. Whites were more likely (45%) to store firearms unlocked and/or loaded than other groups (35%).

Conclusions: Many North Carolina youth have access to household firearms, with white youth being more likely to have firearms, a greater number of firearms, and less safely stored firearms than other race/ethnicity groups. Further interventions and policies to reduce youth access to household firearms are needed. Future research should examine and address why whites, married couples, and those with socioeconomic advantages are more likely than individuals not belonging to these groups to own household firearms and store them unsafely.

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