Black Americans Have Higher Level of Firearm Access

(HealthDay News) — American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) and Black adults have high firearm access and cite protection as a main reason for owning or carrying a firearm, according to a study published online March 4 in JAMA Network Open.

Michael D. Anestis, Ph.D., from The State University of New Jersey in Piscataway, and colleagues surveyed a nationally representative sample of AI/AN and/or Black adults to examine geodemographic differences in firearm behaviors and violence exposure. Data were included for 3,542 participants: 14.9 and 85.1 percent were AI/AN and Black, respectively.

The researchers found that high firearm access rates were exhibited by both groups (45.4 and 30.4 percent for AI/AN and Black adults, respectively), with handguns predominantly owned for home protection. Similar firearm storage patterns were seen in the groups, and a substantial proportion endorsed always or almost always carrying firearms outside the house (18.9 and 15.2 percent of AI/AN and Black adults, respectively).

A common reason for carrying a firearm was self-protection (84.9 and 88.3 percent for AI/AN and Black adults, respectively); lack of faith in the police was cited by a minority of participants (15.2 and 15.4 percent for AI/AN and Black adults, respectively), indicating potential shifts in the dynamics of public safety.

“The descriptive information presented here has implications for informing public health campaigns and policies to promote safe firearm use and prevent inequitable exposure to firearm violence,” the authors write.

One author disclosed receiving book royalties from Oxford University Press.

Abstract/Full Text


Firearm access and health

One of the most concerning health issues associated with firearm access is the high rate of firearm-related injuries and deaths. The easy availability of firearms increases the likelihood of impulsive acts of violence and self-harm, contributing to the alarming rates of firearm-related fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), firearms are a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States, with nearly 40,000 firearm-related deaths reported annually. This includes homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries.

Related: In Some U.S. Urban Areas, Men Age 18-29 Face Higher Gun Death Rate Than in Wartime

Firearm access and suicide

Studies have consistently demonstrated a strong association between firearm access and elevated suicide rates. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that individuals with access to firearms are at a significantly higher risk of dying by suicide compared to those without access.

Related: Gun Homicides Rose Sharply, Jumped 39% During Pandemic, Black Men Most Affected

Firearm access and public safety

Firearm access can also have detrimental effects on public safety and community well-being. Easy access to firearms increases the prevalence of gun violence, including mass shootings, homicides, and armed robberies. The presence of firearms in households can also escalate domestic disputes into deadly confrontations, posing a threat to family members and bystanders. Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law has shown that firearm ownership is associated with an increased risk of intimate partner homicide.

According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, gun violence disproportionately affects youth of color. Exposure to gun violence, whether through personal experience or media coverage, can have lasting psychological effects on individuals, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children and adolescents growing up in environments plagued by gun violence are particularly susceptible to adverse mental health outcomes, which can impair their academic performance and social development.

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