More than half of the country's gun owners report that they do not store their firearms in locked, secure location, according to a surveyed conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
A total of 1,444 gun owners in the U. S. responded to an online survey about their firearm safety and storage techniques. Researchers said 54 percent of those surveyed admitted that they do not safely store their firearms in a locked safe, cabinet or gun rack.
The number improved for gun owners who reported having children under 18 in their home. Among those gun owners, 55 percent reported practicing safe storage techniques.
Lead study author Dr. Cassandra Crifasi, an assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said the public should be concerned by the study's findings.
"Many bring guns into their homes for self-defense, but unsecured guns can lead to unintentional shootings, suicides, and tragic cases of troubled teens using guns to commit acts of violence," Crifasi said. "Communicating with gun owners about the importance of safe storage is a challenging opportunity. If we are successful at improving storage practices among gun owners, particularly those with children in the home, we could reduce risks for gun violence and injury."
Home defense concerns were cited by 43 percent of participants as influencing their gun storage practices. Those participants were 30 percent less likely to safely store their firearms.
The 35 percent of participants who said a safety training course was what most influenced their firearm storage habits were twice as likely to properly store their guns.
Study co-author Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, applauded gun owners who take safety courses.
"It's encouraging to see the positive associations between safety training and reporting safe storage practices," Webster said. "Requiring gun purchasers to take safety training classes, as a handful of states already do, might lead to more gun owners storing their guns safely."
When it came to communicating messages about gun safety, 77 percent of respondents said that law enforcement officials were the best messengers.