In a new study, researchers found that among older people who own guns in the U.S., about 25% may store their weapons unlocked and loaded at home.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Washington, Seattle.
Previous studies have shown that storing guns at home can pose a danger to older people with cognitive impairment.
Guns may also harm their family members, children, caregivers, and visitors.
Misuse of guns led to self-injury and caused about 90% of firearm deaths among older U.S. adults.
However, how many older people own guns and whether they store their guns safely have been unknown.
In the current study, the team conducted a survey about gun ownership and storage practice. They analyzed data from more than 4000 adults.
They found that about 38% of the respondents reported a gun in the home. These people tended to be younger and were more likely to be white, male, and married.
About one-third of them stored all guns locked and unloaded, and about 25% of them stored at least 1 gun unlocked and loaded.
The team found that those reporting unlocked and loaded storage were more likely to be male, to be a veteran, and to reside in a rural area.
The researchers suggest that limiting gun access may be an important way for suicide prevention.
This is very important for older people who are beginning to show symptoms of depression or dementia.
In addition, the government needs to provide people guidelines about how to store guns safely. This can help reduce self-injury and other gunshot-related accidents.
The lead author of the study is Erin Morgan from the University of Washington.
The study is published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
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