Parents may underestimate teen’s access to guns in the home


Reducing access to guns in the home is a key way to prevent accidental injury and death. A report indicates that many parents may not be fully aware of their child’s access to firearms in the home.

Due to the increased risk of suicide as well as unintentional injury posed by living in a household with a firearm, it’s important to the health and well-being of adolescents to be aware of firearm ownership in the house and the ease of access. An investigation in JAMA Network Open looked at how easy it was for a teenager to access a firearm in the household as well as whether a parent believed the firearm was accessible.1

Investigators used data from a nationally representative survey conducted from June to August 2019. Parents with a child aged 13 to 17 years were allowed to invite the child to a separate survey. If more than 1 teenager was in the household, the parent was told to choose the child who had the most recent birthday. The teenagers were asked how long it would take them to gain access to a loaded gun in their home. The parents were asked if their child would be able to independently access a firearm in the home, as well as firearm storage practices.

A total of 280 parent-child pairs met the requirements for being included in the study. The average age of the parent was 45.2 years and 15.0 years for the adolescent. In 33.9% (95% CI, 26.7%-41.2%), the teenager said that they would be able to gain access to a loaded firearm in less than 5 minutes. In the households where all firearms were locked, 23.7% (95% CI, 12.3%-35.1%) of teenagers said that they could access a firearm in less than 4 minutes. However, 70.4% (95% CI, 63.7%-77.1%) of the parents said that their child could not gain access to any firearm in the household. In these households, 21.8% of (95% CI 13.8%-29.7%) said that they could gain access in 5 minutes and 14.9% (95% CI, 8.9%-20.9%) said that it would take more than 5 minutes to gain access to the firearm, but access could be gained in less than an hour.

The investigators concluded that many teenagers in households with guns have ready access to them, even in households where firearms are locked up. Many parents were aware that their teenager had access to the household firearms, but many were unaware of their teenager’s ability to access the household firearms. The findings should be kept in mind when developing efforts with the aim to reduce adolescent access to firearms.


1. Salhi C, Azrael D, Miller M. Parent and adolescent reports of adolescent access to household firearms in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(3):e210989. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.0989

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