Strategic observation

Study: Firearm-safety class rates in U.S. little changed in 20 years

2017-07-16 07:25:42 (Beijing Time)         English.news.cn

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SAN FRANCISCO, July 15 (Xinhua) -- A new study from the University of Washington (UW) shows that only about three in five U.S. firearm owners have received any formal gun training, and the percentage has not changed much in 20 years.

"What's more surprising," said Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, an associate professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health, who led the study published this week in the journal Injury Prevention, "is how the content of these trainings have not been adapted to talk about one of the greatest risks associated with owning a firearm or living in a gun-owning household: suicide."

Firearm-training classes, regardless of their setting - gun shops, hunting clubs, shooting ranges, etc. - can promote awareness about warning signs of suicide and encourage gun owners to keep firearms from at-risk individuals.

However, the United States does not have a national standard or requirement for firearm-safety training prior to purchasing a gun, putting the responsibility on gun owners and those who live with them to find ways to learn safety strategies.

Other high-income nations, including Canada, Australia and Germany, have national standards that require safety training or an exam before one can legally purchase a gun.

Suicide rates in the United States are on the rise, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicides account for two-thirds of all U.S. firearm deaths. The rate is especially high among middle-aged populations. Yet only 15 percent of the study participants who owned guns reported having received information about suicide prevention.

"The link between firearm access and suicide is strong and well-documented. Gun training provides a valuable opportunity to include educational messages about suicide prevention," Rowhani-Rahbar was quoted as saying in a news release.

"There is very little research about the content of formal firearm-training programs, or even about the percentage of U.S. adults who have ever received formal firearm training," he noted. "Before our study, the most recent estimates of the proportion of adult firearm owners with formal firearm training in the United States came from surveys conducted in 1994."

Rowhani-Rahbar and UW doctroal student Vivian Lyons used data from a national online survey to generate up-to-date estimates about firearm training. Information from nearly 4,000 people indicated that only 61 percent of all gun owners and 14 percent of non-owners who live with a firearm owner have received any formal gun training, percentages largely unchanged since the 1994 surveys.

When asked about the content of firearm trainings, survey participants commonly reported learning safe gun handling and storage, and accident prevention.

Guns can be found in one-third of U.S. homes. When they are present in the household, researchers have found that the risk of firearm injury, intentional or not, increases for everyone in the household, especially when guns are not locked, unloaded, and stored in a safe place.

"Our findings suggest that we could be doing a much better job with firearm trainings for all gun owners and non-owners who live with a gun owner," said Rowhani-Rahbar.