Do partners with children know about firearms in their home? Evidence of a gender gap and implications for clinicians

Coyne-Beasley, T., Baccaglini, L., Johnson, R. M., Webster, B., & Wiebe, D. J. (2005). Do partners with children know about firearms in their home? Evidence of a gender gap and implications for practitioners. Pediatrics115(6), e662-e667.


Objective: The gender gap describing the apparent differences in male and female reports of firearm-ownership and -storage habits has never been evaluated among individuals who live in the same household. Thus, the objective of this study was to examine the level of agreement on household firearms and storage practices among cohabiting partners.

Methods: Data for this investigation came from follow-up telephone interviews of participants who underwent a randomized, controlled trial to test the effect of home-safety counseling, including firearm safety, on behavior change. Baseline interviews were conducted at a level 1 pediatric emergency department in North Carolina with adults who took a child or adolescent who was under his or her care to a pediatric emergency department. Follow-up interviews were conducted via telephone at 18 months after intervention with participants who reported household firearms at baseline. Participants then were asked whether their partners could be contacted for a separate telephone interview. The measured outcomes were number and type of household firearms and firearm-storage practices. The strength of agreement between partners’ reported firearm-ownership and -storage practices was measured with the kappa statistic.

Results: Seventy-six partner-respondent pairs completed the study (62% response rate). Most initial respondents were white (89%), female (76%), and college graduates (52%); the median age was 37. There were no same-gender partners, and 91% reported that they were spouses. There was not perfect agreement among male and female partners with regard to the presence of household firearms. More men (80%) reported the presence of household firearms than did women (72%; kappa = .64). The discordance between partner pairs regarding the number of household firearms and type was poor to fair (kappa = .35 and .34, respectively). Although similar proportions of men and women reported storing any household firearms loaded (10%) and storing all household firearms locked up (63% men and 62% women), the kappa values demonstrated only moderate agreement (kappa = .56-.60). Most men (88%) and women (83%) reported that firearm storage was the husband’s responsibility; 82% of men compared with 17% of women reported that they personally owned all of the firearms.

Conclusions: A gender gap does exist in the reporting of firearm ownership with regard to the number and type of firearms owned. There are also differences in reported firearm-storage practices, which are likely related to the finding that men were reported to be the primary owner of firearms in most households as well as the person more commonly responsible for firearm storage. Firearm-safety counseling should include male partners in the history-taking process to improve knowledge about the presence and storage patterns of household firearms.