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Research

High-profile Mass Shooting Incidences Associated with Improved Gun Safety at Home

A small child staring at a hand gun within reach on a table.

In the wake of high profile shootings, how do the parents of young children respond with regard to guns in the home? This is the question that American University School of Public Affairs Associate Professor Taryn Morrissey sought to answer in her recent study published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Across the US, approximately 20 percent of homes with children have guns, but only two-thirds report always storing them in a locked cabinet, putting family members at greater risk of injury or death from the accidental discharge of guns. Morrissey found that active shooter incidents – a shooting that occurs in a populated, public place – were associated with a subsequent increase in the likelihood that families with young children (2 and 3 years old) stored household firearms in a locked cabinet. The study suggests that public awareness campaigns promoting gun safety may be especially effective at helping to reduce accidental gun discharge in the wake of an active shooter incident.

“Considering the number of young children living in homes with guns, and guns that are not always kept under lock and key, awareness is important,” said Morrissey. “Campaigns focused on the safe storage of firearms may be particularly effective right after an active shooter incident.”

Following several high-profile mass-shooting incidences, parents were as much as 23 percentage points more likely to store household firearms in locked cabinets. She also found that shooting incidents that were closer (within the same state) and more severe (involving one more fatalities) were associated with greater increases in safe gun storage. Media coverage surrounding active shooter incidents may serve as an important safe gun storage reminder to families.