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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Preferences for Firearm Locking Devices and Device Features Among Participants in a Firearm Safety Event


Introduction: Safe firearm storage is associated with a lower risk of firearm-related injury and death. Although providing firearm locking devices is a key component of firearm safety interventions, little is known about the types and characteristics of devices preferred by firearm users or others who make decisions about firearm storage. The aim of this study was to describe preferences for firearm locking devices and device features among firearm safety event participants.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey in the State of Washington in 2016 that assessed participants’ preferences for five firearm locking devices (eg, trigger lock) and seven device features (eg, quick access). We categorized respondents (n=401) as adults in households with 1) all firearms locked, 2) at least one unlocked firearm, and 3) no firearms. We analyzed data in 2017.

Results: Device ownership and feature preferences varied substantially but were similar across the three household categories. Of those residing with unlocked firearms, 84% reported they would consider using or definitely use a lock box, whereas 11% reported they would never use a trigger lock. Additionally, of those residing with unlocked firearms, 80% and 89% reported that the ability to lock a firearm while loaded and unlock it quickly were, respectively, “very important” or “absolutely essential.”

Conclusion: Participants had differing preferences for firearm locking devices and device features, although preferences were largely similar across households with locked, unlocked, or no firearms. At least eight in ten participants reported “great importance” regarding the ability to lock a firearm while loaded and unlock it quickly, which is likely related to perceptions about the utility of safely stored firearms for household protection. Designing firearm safety interventions to match the needs and preferences of those who make firearm storage decisions may improve their effectiveness.

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