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What Can Be Done to Increase Safe Gun Storage?

Nancy Lee- Reducing Gun Deaths & Injuries book coverThis post is part three of a five-part series by Nancy Lee exploring how social marketing strategies can reduce gun violence in America. Nancy Lee is a strategic advisor to C+C and one of the world’s leading authorities on social marketing.

Content Warning: This post addresses the topics of suicide and gun violence. These subjects can be distressing for some readers and we encourage you to prioritize your mental well-being when choosing whether or not to proceed with reading this content. If you or someone you know is struggling, please consider reaching out to a mental health professional, a support hotline, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or by dialing 988, the new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

What Can Be Done to Increase Safe Gun Storage?

This is my third of five blogs related to reducing gun deaths and injuries, a public health crisis. As noted in prior blogs, a research journey this past year led to four areas of focus for Social Marketing efforts (The 4Ss):

  • Suicide Interventions
  • Storage
  • See Something. Say Something.
  • Social Equity

This month’s blog elaborates on the issue of gun storage, with the following disturbing facts confirming the need for this focus:

  • 63% of gun owners have at least one gun in their home never locked up.
  • Among children and youth under 18, over 80% of firearm suicides involved a gun of a family member.
  • Almost half of school shooters stole the gun from a family member.

The following two case examples highlight impactful Social Marketing efforts to increase safe gun storage.

Governmental Agencies Offering Incentives for Safe Firearm Storage

Example: Michigan’s Free Gun Trigger-Locks

An article in the Journal of Applied Communication Research in 2011 highlighted a campaign in Michigan to inspire gun owners to secure their firearms by increasing knowledge of the danger to of an unlocked and loaded gun, and to make it free and easy to receive a gun trigger-lock. A radio PSA focused on the specific dangers to youth/children from an unlocked and loaded gun in the home, and at the end of the message, a toll-free number was provided to receive a free gun trigger-lock.

“Seven-hundred and ninety-nine individuals called the toll-free number to receive a free gun trigger-lock, approximately 17 percent of gun-owning households exposed to the message. Follow-up survey results indicated that individuals were using the gun trigger-locks, and that they believed using gun trigger-locks was an easy and effective way to prevent gun injuries.”

A Coalition of Organizations in Texas: Safe Gun Storage Saves Lives Campaign

A March 2022 news story in Austin, Texas, highlighted that a new Safe Gun Storage Saves Lives campaign would be a first-of-its-kind collaboration by the nonprofit Lock Arms for Life with numerous governmental organizations in Texas. The following efforts in Austin demonstrate the potential impact of aligning key organizations in a community to ensure widespread outreach, a variety of strategic intervention tools, influential messengers, and consistent messaging.

  • The Texas Department of Public Safety created a robust media campaign featuring the slogan, Keep ‘Em Safe Texas and a website that provides accessible protective resources including printable safe gun storage checklists, testimonial videos, and tools on how to talk to others about safe gun storage. Materials are provided in both English and Spanish.
  • Austin Public Health joined the team providing free gun locks to residents, made available at special events, police departments and through the campaign’s website.
  • The Office of Violence Prevention partnered to connect families in Central Texas with the education and resources needed to safely store firearms.
  • The Austin Police Department provides free gun locks at a variety of their police stations, and as of 2021 the organization has distributed about 2,500 gun locks and 150 lock boxes.

References and more detail such as years and source for these statistics can be found in my book, Reducing Gun Deaths & Injuries: A Social Marketing Approach, Ethics International Press, 2023. If you’re interested in purchasing a paperback copy, select “Paperback” and for a 15% discount, enter this code: 42663576207413.