Academic Studies on the Efficacy of Child Access Prevention and Safe Storage Laws

The Safe Tennessee Project is dedicated to reducing gun violence in Tennessee, especially those shootings that are the result of child gaining access to a loaded, unsecured gun.  As a community of physicians, academics, and concerned citizens, we are interested in evidenced-based solutions to these preventable tragedies.  Researchers are as well, and have published numerous peer-reviewed studies linking child access prevention laws to reductions in child-involved unintentional shootings, juvenile suicides, and juvenile use of firearms for criminal activity.

Below are a number of academic research studies and medical organizations’ policy statements related to mental illness and firearms.

The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Non-Fatal Gun Injuries, Jeff DeSimone and Sara Markowitz, National Bureau of Economic Research (2005) – key findings: Results from Poisson regressions that control for various hospital, county and state characteristics, including state-specific fixed effects and time trends, indicate that CAP laws substantially reduce non-fatal gun injuries among both children and adults (a unique point about this study is that it looked at non-fatal injuries, which are much more common than deaths). When CAP laws are implemented, self-inflicted gun injuries fall by 64 percent for youth age 18 and under but do not decrease for adults. This study also has this helpful review of the previous academic literature: “Only a few previous studies have rigorously examined the effects of CAP laws on gun related injuries, all using annual state-level data on gun-related deaths. Using 1979–1994 data on children age 14 and under, Cummings et al. (1997) found that CAP laws reduce unintentional shooting deaths by 23 percent. In 1979–1997 data, Webster and Starnes (2000) similarly established that CAP laws were associated with a 17 percent decline in unintentional firearm death rates, but attributed the entire effect to a 51 percent mortality reduction in Florida after the 1989 enactment of its CAP law, which allows felony prosecution of violators. Webster et al. (2004) analyzed 1976–2001 data and found that among 14–17 year olds, CAP laws decreased gun suicides by 11 percent but had no effect on non-gun suicides. They also reported that among 18–20 year olds, who are not covered by the laws in any state, CAP laws were associated with a 13 percent fall in gun suicides and a nine percent reduction in non-gun suicides. In contrast, Lott and Whitley (2001) failed to detect a relationship between CAP laws and accidental gun deaths or suicides among youth age less than 15 and 15–19 during 1979–1996.
The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Non-fatal Gun Injuries

Parental Misperceptions About Children and Firearms, Frances Baxley, MD; Matthew Miller, MD, ScD, American Medical Association (2006) – key findings: Children younger than 10 years were as likely as older children to report knowing the storage location (73% vs 79%, respectively) and to report having handled a household gun (36% vs 36%, respectively). 39% of parents who reported that their children did not know the storage location of household guns and 22% of parents who reported that their children had never handled a household gun were contradicted by their children’s reports. In other words, kids often know where firearms are stored in the home and have actually handled them much more than parents realize.
Parental Misperceptions About Children and Firearms

Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population, M. Denise Dowd, MD, MPH Robert D. Sege, MD, PhD, American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement (2012) – key point: “Evidence supports the effectiveness of regulation that limits child access to firearms…Trigger locks, lock boxes, gun safes, and safe storage legislation are encouraged by the AAP.”
Firearm-related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population

State Firearm Laws, Firearm Ownership, and Safety Practices Among Families of Preschool-Aged Children, by Kate C. Prickett, MPAff, Alexa Martin-Storey, PhD, and Robert Crosnoe, PhD, American Journal of Public Health (2014) – key findings: Firearm legislation and CAP laws interacted to predict ownership and storage behaviors, with unsafe storage least likely among families in states with both CAP laws and stronger firearm legislation.
State Firearm Laws, Firearm Ownership, and Safety Practices Among Families of Preschool-Aged Children

Association Between Youth-Focused Firearm Laws and Youth Suicides, By: Daniel W. Webster, Jon S. Vernick, April M. Zeoli, Jennifer A. Manganello, AMA Journal (2004) – key findings: “We did find convincing evidence that the 18 CAP laws adopted during the study period led to an 8.3% reduction in suicide rates among youth aged 14 to 17 years. Firearms are used in approximately half of all youth suicides.
Association Between Youth-focused Firearm Laws and Youth Suicides

The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Unintentional Child Firearm Fatalities, 1979–2000, Lisa Hepburn, PhD, MPH, Deborah Azrael, PhD, MS, Matthew Miller, MD, ScD, MPH, and David Hemenway, PhD (2005) – key findings: Most states that enacted CAP laws experienced greater subsequent declines in the rate of unintentional firearm deaths for children age 0 to 14 compared with states not enacting the laws; however when adjusted for firearm prevalence and state and national effects the laws were associated with statistically significant declines only in Florida and California. Florida’s law, which is the oldest and one of the toughest (violation is a felony) resulted in a 51% reduction in accidental firearm deaths among children in that state over the eight years for which there was data.
The Effect of Child Access Prevention Laws on Unintentional Child Firearm Fatalities, 1997-2000

Easy Access to Firearms: Juveniles’ Risks for Violent Offending and Violent Victimization, R. Barry Ruback, Jennifer N. Shaffer, and Valerie A. Clark, Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2010) – key findings: Current access to firearms at home significantly increased the odds of both violent offending and violent victimization, even after controlling for prior access, prior offend- ing, and prior victimization. This relationship persisted into early adulthood; access to firearms still significantly increased the odds of violent offending and violent victimization.
Easy Access to Firearms: Juveniles’ Risk for Violent Offending and Violent Victimization

Firearm Availability and Unintentional Firearm Deaths, Suicide, and Homicide among 5–14 Year Olds, Mathew Miller, MD, MPH, ScD, Deborah Azrael, PhD, and David Hemenway, PhD (2001)  – key findings: A statistically significant association exists between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides.
Miller Firearm Availability Among 5-14 year olds

State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms, Peter Cummings, David Grossman, Frederick Rivara, and Thomas Koepsell, Journal of the American Medical Association (1997) – key findings: CAP laws associated with a  23% decrease in unintentional shootings among children under 15 years old.
State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms
State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms