Donated gun safes used to reduce risk of accidental shootings and suicides

Preventive health care researchers say nearly two-thirds of western Alaska households that were given a lockable gun cabinet or safe were still using them to store their firearms and ammunition about a year later.

Researchers recently announced the results of a study that included the donation of gun cabinets to 255 households in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Participating households were surveyed before getting the cabinet and then a year later. They were also provided with instructions and a brief safety message.

At least 89-percent of the randomly-selected participating households already had unlocked firearms or ammunition before they had the $80 cabinet installed. One year later, researchers say only 35-percent of those households still reported unlocked guns or ammunition.

Previous studies have already highlighted the Alaska Native suicide rate as three times greater than Caucasian Americans. Additionally, suicide-by-firearm is ten times greater for young Alaska Native men than for their Caucasian counterparts

Dr. David Grossman is a pediatrician, senior investigator in preventive care at Group Health Research Institute, and professor of health services at University of Washington. Grossman was also author of a study seven years ago that linked safe firearm storage to reduced risk of unintentional injury and suicide. We talked to him about the recent gun cabinet installation in western Alaska.

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The donation of lockable gun cabinets to households in western Alaska was done in conjunction with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Bristol Bay Health Corporation, and the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

Results of the study were published Thursday, March 8th in the online version of the American Journal of Public Health.

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