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August 2002

Handgun Safety: What Do Consumers Learn From Gun Dealers?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Academic Pediatrics, Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Ill (Drs Sanguino and Tanz); and the Department of Pediatrics (Dr McEnaney), and the Division of Emergency Medicine (Drs Dowd and Knapp), Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Mo.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156(8):777-780. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.8.777

Objective  To explore the type and quality of handgun safety information a typical consumer would obtain from a licensed gun dealer.

Methods  Semistructured, interactional on-site interviews were conducted with licensed handgun dealers in 2 metropolitan areas. A variety of dealers (gun shops, pawnshops, general merchandise stores, and sporting goods stores) were visited. Investigators posed as customers interested in buying a handgun. During the interview, investigators expressed concern that as the parent of a 4-year-old child, they needed suggestions about keeping their child safe with a gun in the home. Information collected included basic dealer demographics, opinions on whether a 4-year-old child could pull a handgun trigger, handgun safety advice and recommendations, and the type of safety devices and handgun safety educational materials that were available in the store.

Results  There were 96 visits made to gun dealers. The typical salesperson was a man who appeared to be older than 40 years. Trigger locks were the most common safety devices available. When asked what a consumer should know about purchasing a handgun, 85% of salespeople did not mention safe storage. Only 9 (9%) offered advice that included all of the following: keeping the gun securely locked, keeping the gun unloaded, and storing the gun separately from the ammunition. One third answered "no" or "don't know" or "uncertain" when asked if a 4-year-old could pull the trigger. The majority (92%) did not have any handgun safe storage educational materials on site.

Conclusions  Salespeople offered potential buyers little or no education about safe storage of handguns. The information provided was often inconsistent with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.