This collaborative exploratory study aims to describe and understand people’s associations with and actions related to firearms, safety, and storage in rural Alaska Native (AN) communities where most households have guns and youth suicide rates represent a severe health disparity. This information will guide the development of a family-focused brief universal intervention for primary care settings to increase safe household firearm storage and reduce access to unsecured firearms in order to reduce the risk of youth firearm injuries and fatalities. Thematic analysis of three focus groups with 33 AN adults, coupled with guidance from Community Steering Committee (CSC) members, describes normative associations with firearms, motivations for safely storing household guns, and other factors influencing firearm access and storage practices in people’s homes. Results highlight the value of firearms for subsistence hunting, the continuance of cultural practices, and the safety of children as primary motivations for restricting firearm access. Adults in households tend to share responsibility for gun safety to keep youth safe. Participants agreed that promoting firearm safety was important, but interpretations about what safety meant and how to enhance safety varied. We describe distinct cultural associations related to firearms (e.g., “we need guns for subsistence”), and identify possible points of engagement and areas for improvement in firearm safe storage.
Describing meanings and practices related to firearms, safety, and household storage in rural Alaska Native communities.
Wexler, L., Apala Flaherty, A., Begum, F., White, L., Kouassi, L., Wisnieski, D., Davis, A., & Ewell Foster, C. (2023). Describing meanings and practices related to firearms, safety, and household storage in rural Alaska Native communities. Journal of Rural Mental Health, 47(1), 30–40. https://doi.org/10.1037/rmh0000207.