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According to a Rutgers study, service members are more likely to safely store their firearms when the message of safe storage is delivered by military law enforcement.

A study published in JAMA Open Network, surveyed 719 members of the military who own firearms, including service members in all branches of the military, as well as those serving in the National Guard and Reserve. It turned out that the voice of a soldier Enforcement most consistently trusted on this issue.

“These findings are consistent with what we’ve consistently found in previous work based on self-report surveys: that law enforcement — or security forces in the case of the military — are seen as a particularly persuasive voice on this issue,” Michael said. Anestis, lead author of the study and executive director of the New Jersey Center for the Study of Gun Violence at Rutgers and assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

“Maybe law enforcement is seen as having more experience and knowledge about firearms and doesn’t feel like they’re pushing a political agenda on this issue. Regardless of the reason, their voices can be key to getting service members to adopt a safe possession of firearms practiced with personal firearms.’

In the study, each service member randomly viewed one of 12 visual messages about safe firearm storage for suicide prevention provided by a primary care physician, security forces member, or combat controller.

Participants were shown images of military personnel storing firearms in a gun store with text about the importance of safe firearm storage to prevent suicide. Half of the posts included text that supported the point of view of firearms owners, while half did not. Similarly, half of the messages included text that confirmed the need for home protection, while half did not.

The researchers measured service members’ willingness to use four options for safe firearm storage at home (unloaded, separate from ammunition, with a locking device installed, in a locked location) and three options outside the home (with a friend or family member, with a retail firearm) weapons, in law enforcement) immediately before and after viewing the visual message.

Service members responded positively to the messages in general, particularly regarding the use of locking devices. These devices, including cable locks and trigger locks, are included in most legal firearm purchases, are less expensive than many other storage options, and are already being distributed through a variety of military and civilian suicide prevention programs.

Although different message components influenced willingness to adopt each storage practice differently, messages voiced by security forces were consistently influential regardless of whether the message included additional text designed to confirm the reader’s needs and perspectives.

Safe firearm storage is a vital tool in preventing a number of gun-related outcomes, including suicide. Almost 70 percent of all military suicides occur with firearms. Safe storage of firearms is unfortunately relatively rare, even among this high-risk group.

Individuals who commit suicide with a firearm are less likely than other suicides to seek mental health care before their death, so relying purely on medical workers promoting the importance of safe storage is unlikely to reach those most at risk. Widespread public health messaging, Anestis said, could be a viable way to promote such vital behaviors at the population level.

“These findings provide preliminary experimental evidence that, with the right voice saying the right words, we can motivate hard-to-reach, high-risk populations to make vital behavioral changes in the privacy of their own homes,” Anestis said.

“If we can develop and disseminate effective messages about the safe storage of firearms, we will have the opportunity to save countless lives in the military. When a group of people is hesitant to tell us that they are having a hard time, we have to find other ways to help. This could be our chance to do just that.”

The results of the study may help improve firearm safety messages to prevent suicide

Additional information:
Michael Anestis et al., The Evolution of Firearm Safe Storage Messaging in a Firearm-Owning Sample of US Military Personnel, JAMA Open Network (2022). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.202235984

Citation: Military Law Key Convincing Military to Safely Store Firearms (2022, October 11) Retrieved October 11, 2022, from members.html

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