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September 1996

Safe Storage of Handguns: What Do the Police Recommend?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics (Drs Denno, Grossman, and Bergman) and the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (Drs Grossman and Bergman and Mr Britt), University of Washington, Seattle.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(9):927-931. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170340041008

Objective:  To ascertain the specific suggestions that local police departments in the United States give to parents who ask for advice about methods to safely store handguns.

Methods:  A cross-sectional, semistructured telephone survey was administered to a sample of 102 police departments in the United States in cities with populations of 10 000 or more, selected within blocks of cities of similar population size. An investigator, posing as a parent of 3-year-old and 10-year-old children, called departments seeking specific advice on how to safely store a handgun acquired for protection.

Results:  Usable responses were generated for 93 (91%) of the departments sampled. Only 3 departments (3.2%) refused to give advice over the telephone. The most commonly suggested storage methods were trigger locks (55 departments [59%]), portable lockboxes for handguns (48[52%]), and the separation of guns from ammunition (30 [32%]). Seven percent of departments suggested removing the gun from the household. Over half of those suggesting trigger locks and lockboxes considered these devices safe (35 [64%] for trigger locks and 27 [56%] for lockboxes) and yet rapidly accessible to an adult (36 [65%] for trigger locks and 36 [75%] for lockboxes). Responding police officers most commonly reported using the following storage methods at home: no storage method (31 [38%]), portable lockboxes (23 [28%]), out-of-reach location (11 [13%]), separation of gun and ammunition (10 [12%]), and trigger locks (5 [6%]).

Conclusions:  Trigger locks are frequently recommended but infrequently used by police themselves at home. Portable lockboxes are frequently recommended as well as used by police.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:927-931

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