Carter, P. M., Mouch, C. A., Goldstick, J. E., Walton, M. A., Zimmerman, M. A., Resnicow, K., & Cunningham, R. M. (2020). Rates and Correlates of Risky Firearm Behaviors among Adolescents and Young Adults Treated in an Urban Emergency Department. Preventive medicine, 130, 105891.
Firearm violence is a leading cause of death for urban adolescents and young adults (A/YAs). Little is known about patterns of risky firearm behaviors (RFBs) that may increase firearm-related fatality and non-fatal injury risk. To inform prevention efforts, we examined the rates and correlates of RFBs, including firearm carriage in risky situations (e.g., while drunk/high), discharge in risky situations (e.g., fleeing police), and firearm aggression (e.g., firearm threats/use against a partner/non-partner), among a sample of A/YAs (age-16-29) seeking medical or injury related care (7/2017–6/2018) at a Level-1 urban Emergency Department (ED). In total, 1312 A/YAs completed the survey (mean-age 23.2; 29.6%-male; 50.5%-Black; 56.3%-public assistance), with 102 (7.8%) engaging in RFBs. Among those engaging in RFBs, 42% reported firearm ownership, 68.6% firearm carriage in high-risk situations, 39.2% firearm discharge in risky situations, and 41.2% reported partner/non-partner firearm aggression. Regression identified RFBs correlates, including older age (AOR = 1.09), male sex (AOR = 1.63), Black race/ethnicity (AOR = 2.01), substance misuse (AOR = 2.75), attitudes favoring firearm use/retaliation (AOR = 1.38), peer firearm ownership/carriage (AOR = 3.26), higher levels of community violence exposure (AOR = 1.05), and active parole/probation (AOR 2.38). Higher coping skills were protective for RFBs (AOR = 0.83). Overall, we found that A/YAs seeking urban ED treatment reported elevated RFB rates, emphasizing the need for novel prevention initiatives, especially those incorporating tailored content addressing substance use, retaliatory violence, and peer delinquency/norms, while enhancing self-efficacy for avoiding RFBs and providing access to external resources within a resiliency-based framework. Such prevention approaches may be a critical step towards addressing the public health problem of firearm violence.