PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — While the debate rages on with gun safety laws following headlines of mass shootings, a national survey on gun locks points to what some call a reckless attitude among some gun owners. It’s a troubling study on how people store their weapons.
More than half of gun owners do not safely store all their guns, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The lead author says “household gun ownership can increase the risk of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings, but practicing safe storage for all guns reduces those risks.”
“I’m disappointed. I’m not surprised,” said Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub.
Weintraub’s office recently dealt with the unfortunate case of 2-year-old Benjamin Smith, who picked up his dad’s loaded handgun in Milford Township, and fatally shot himself.
“It was really 100% preventable,” Weintraub said.
The survey of 1,444 U.S. gun owners finds 54% of them are not storing all of their guns safely, in a locked gun safe, cabinet or case, locked into a gun rack, or secured with a trigger lock.
Weintraub also references gun owners who report that their storage decisions were influenced by concerns about home defense. He says the technology is there for people to store guns safety, but still have instant access.:
‘”here are things such as fingerprint locks that automatically unlock a stored weapon, so that they could be used for self protection,” Weintraub explained.
The new research finds that gun owners who reported a gun safety training course influenced their gun storage practices were twice as likely to practice safe storage for all their guns.
In 2016, the most recent year of complete data, the Hopkins study said there were 1,637 firearm deaths among children under the age of 18; 39 percent of these deaths were the result of suicide.
It’s believed to be the first nationally representative sample in 15 years to examine gun storage practices in U.S. households.