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Northwestern Now: Safe Gun Storage Programs Are Successful — If Implemented

From Northwestern Now: A secure firearm storage program in which pediatricians engage with parents on the importance of secure storage has been proven to help keep firearms out of the hands of young people. But a new study from scientists at Northwestern Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania, Henry Ford Health and Kaiser Permanente Colorado has found preliminary evidence that this program may not be reaching all parents equitably. In the new study, scientists examined a well-established firearm violence-prevention program offered to parents of children ages 5 to 17 during routine pediatric checkups as a way to universally prevent suicide. They discovered preliminary evidence that the program is often not offered to parents of girls and some racial and ethnic minorities. By fixing these unjust — and avoidable — access issues, the study’s authors hope the program can evenly reach all communities. “One in three homes in the United States have a firearm,” said principal investigator and senior author, Rinad Beidas. “Half of suicide deaths are due to firearms. Secure firearm storage is an important target for reducing suicide deaths in young people and pediatricians are trusted messengers who can discuss the importance of secure firearm storage with parents and offer locking devices. By prospectively examining potential inequities to implement evidence-based interventions, we can better reach and benefit all individuals.” Beidas is the chair of the department of medical social sciences and the Ralph Seal Paffenbarger professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “With rising rates of suicide among racially and ethnically minorized youth, we must ensure that firearm safety programs deployed in health care settings reach all populations to realize the goal of keeping young people safe,” said lead author Katelin Hoskins, assistant professor in the department of biobehavioral health sciences at Penn Nursing. “Beyond clinical research, our work highlights the potential for health systems to engage in data-driven monitoring for inequities to ensure that implementing firearm violence prevention programs translates into meaningful impact for all families.” In the study, the scientists focused on S.A.F.E. (Suicide and Accident prevention through Family Education) Firearm, an evidence-based program in which doctors distribute free cable locks to all parents or guardians during a routine pediatric primary care appointment and have a brief discussion about how to securely store their firearms. If the parents self-disclose they don’t own firearms, the physician can discuss how to inquire about firearm safety at friends’ and family members’ houses. Read more at Northwestern Now.