Firearm storage practices of officers in a law enforcement agency in the south

  • Tamera Coyne-Beasley
    Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Community Pediatrics, Campus Box 7225, Wing C, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7225
    Injury Prevention Research Center (Coyne-Beasley), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

    Department of Pediatrics (Coyne-Beasley), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • Renee M Johnson
    Department of Health Behavior and Health Education (Johnson), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • Luenda E Charles
    Department of Epidemiology (Charles, Schoenbach), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • Victor J Schoenbach
    Department of Epidemiology (Charles, Schoenbach), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
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  • Author Footnotes
    1 Luenda E. Charles is currently affiliated with the Jackson Heart Study Undergraduate Training Center, Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi.


      Background: Law enforcement officers play an important role in promoting firearm safety. This study examined their firearm-related attitudes and practices.
      Methods: We conducted an anonymous, self-administered survey of law enforcement officers in an agency in the South concerning firearm ownership, storage practices, and opinions.
      Results: The 207 respondents (response rate=71%) were primarily white (60%) and male (89%). The proportions of respondents with (55%) and without (45%) children were similar. Eighty percent of the officers had firearms in addition to the one they were issued for work. Most stored firearms unlocked (59%) and loaded (68%); almost half (44%) reported storing firearms both unlocked and loaded. Eighty-five percent indicated that they felt an added need to protect themselves and family because of their job. Those who reported having firearms for self-protection were less likely than those who had firearms for recreation to store firearms securely. As compared to those without children, law enforcement officers with children were more likely to store firearms safely, and were especially likely to store firearms locked up (χ2=12.72, p<0.0001). Respondents favored background checks, mandatory safety training, and enforcement of storage laws. Three quarters approved of government safety regulations for handguns.
      Conclusions: Despite the law enforcement officers’ prominent role in firearm safety promotion and support for initiatives that limit unauthorized access, our study found that many do not practice safe storage. Apparently, many officers keep their firearms stored unlocked and loaded for the purpose of protecting themselves and their families. Addressing concerns about personal safety is a necessary step in promoting safe storage to law enforcement officers.


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