Identity, experience, and threat: Assessing key correlates of firearm ownership and related behaviors in a representative sample of five US States
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The purpose of this study was to examine psychosocial, experiential, and demographic correlates of firearm ownership, carrying, and storage methods. We used a representative survey of 3,510 people living in five US states (Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Texas) conducted in 2022. Individuals provided information on past experiences with firearms, perceptions of threat and neighborhood safety, discrimination, and tolerance of uncertainty alongside demographic items. The analysis was conducted in November 2022. Past experiences with firearms and prior victimization are associated with increased firearm ownership and carrying practices. Threat sensitivity is associated with owning more guns while poorer perceptions of neighborhood safety correspond with owning fewer guns but greater risk for unsafe storage practices like storing a loaded gun in a closet or drawer. Intolerance of uncertainty is associated with owning fewer guns and lower risk for carrying outside of the home but greater risk for unsafe storage. Prior experience of discrimination is associated with risk for carrying firearms outside of the home. Demographic characteristics related to sex, rurality, military service, and political conservatism predict risky firearm-related behaviors related to firearm ownership, carrying frequency, and unsecure storage. Taken together, we find firearm ownership and risky firearm behaviors (e.g. carrying, unsafe storage) are more prominent among groups such as politically conservative males living in rural areas while also being influenced by threatening experiences, uncertainty, and perceptions of safety.