Poster Paper: State Firearm Laws and Firearm Ownership and Safety Practices Among Families of Preschool Age Children

Saturday, November 9, 2013
West End Ballroom A (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kate C. Prickett1, Alexa Martin-Storey2 and Robert Crosnoe1, (1)University of Texas, Austin, (2)Université de Sherbrooke
Background: The American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes the importance of properly storing firearms in households with children. Addressing these concerns is state-level legislation on firearms generally, as well as laws pertaining to access and storage for families of children and adolescents specifically. Considerable variability exists in the presence of both of these types of laws at the state level. Employing a nationally-representative sample of families of four year olds (n=8,100), we explored how state-level variation in both general and child-specific firearms legislation was associated with (1) firearm ownership and (2) improper firearm storage.

Methods: Parents in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a nationally-representative sample of children born in 2001, were asked in 2005, when their children were four, about whether there was a firearm in the household, and if so, whether the firearm was stored in a locked cabinet. State firearm law ratings in 2004 from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence were used to construct measures that indicate whether states had more restrictive firearm-related policies and whether states have laws that require parents to store firearms in an inaccessible and/or locked place. Numerous measures of family-level (e.g. income, education, family structure) and state-level characteristics (e.g. firearm ownership rates, crime rates, political composition of state legislatures) that may be endogenous to firearm laws and ownership were controlled. Using multinomial regressions, we predicted the likelihood of being a non-firearm owner, a firearm owner who stored their firearms in a locked cabinet, or a firearm owner who did not store their firearms in a locked cabinet.

Results: Overall, 12% of families with four-year-olds who lived in states with more restrictive firearm laws and 13% of families in states with child-access firearm laws owned firearms. Comparatively, 27% of families in states with less restrictive general laws and 30% of families in states without child-access laws had firearms. Controlling for both family and state-level characteristics, families who lived in states with child-access firearm laws were 39% less likely to have locked firearms in the home compared to being non-firearm owners. More restrictive general firearm laws were not associated with firearm ownership, controlling for other variables. Firearm laws were not associated with the likelihood of having an unlocked firearm in the home versus being a non-firearm owner. Interaction effects between the restrictiveness of states’ firearm laws and whether they have child-access laws indicated that families who lived in states where firearm laws were generally less restrictive but had child-specific access laws were more likely to have an unlocked firearm in the home than have a locked firearm.

Conclusion: Child specific, but not general firearm laws, were associated with firearm ownership among families with young children. Child-specific access laws in the absence of more general firearm restrictions, however, were associated with an increased likelihood of unsafe firearm practices compared to safe practices. These findings suggest that general firearm restrictions may be associated with the efficacy of child-specific legislation promoting responsible firearm ownership in homes with children.