June 26, 2017

Among U.S. gun owners, parents more likely than non-parents to keep their guns locked and unloaded

Gun owners with children younger than 18 in the household are more likely than those who aren’t parents to say they keep all their guns locked and unloaded while they’re at home, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Even so, 44% of gun-owning parents say there is a gun that is both loaded and easily accessible to them all or most of the time when they’re at home.

Among gun-owning parents with children in their household, 54% say all of the guns in their home are kept in a locked place and 53% say they are all kept unloaded. By comparison, 30% of gun owners who are not parents say all their guns are locked and 40% say they are unloaded, according to the survey conducted in March and April among 3,930 U.S. adults, including 1,269 gun owners.

Gun owners with children are also less likely than those without children to have an easily accessible gun in the home: 44% say there is a loaded gun that is easily accessible to them all or most of the time when they are home, compared with 59% of non-parents.

Regardless of how their guns are stored, the large majority of gun-owning parents say they have talked with their children about gun safety (82%). A smaller share of parents who don’t own guns say the same (51%).

Among non-gun owners, mothers are much more likely than fathers to say they have talked with their children about gun safety (58% vs. 37%). And while 59% of white parents who don’t own guns say they have talked with their children about gun safety, 40% of nonwhite parents who don’t own guns say they have done this.

Americans overall say keeping guns unloaded and in a locked place and storing guns and ammunition separately are more important when there are children in the home than when there are no children in the home. The pattern is similar among parents and non-parents and among gun owners and non-owners, though non-owners are consistently more likely than owners to say each is essential for owners with or without children.

When it comes to taking gun safety courses and keeping shooting skills up to date, Americans don’t distinguish between households with and without children when considering how important these safety measures are. For example, similar shares say it’s essential for gun owners with children in the home and those with no children to take gun safety courses (73% and 68%, respectively).

Topics: Family and Relationships, Parenthood, Household and Family Structure, Gun Policy

  1. Photo of Anna Brown

    is a research analyst focusing on social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous4 weeks ago

    How do you count my gun, loaded, in a holster, on my belt? No one else has access to it. If fact, most won’t know it’s there. But in a home invasion, it’s a lot more useful there than 40 feet away (my current distance from my gun safe).

  2. Loosed Horse4 weeks ago

    Since we know that a 2/3 majority of gun-owners have gun for self-protection, asking them whether they keep a gun accessible (or conversely, whether they keep all guns unloaded and/or locked up) is a question of no value in assessing guns are kept safely (that is, kept inaccessible to kids and other unauthorized users).

    Keeping a gun “easily accessible” is not equivalent to keeping it unsafely stored. A gun-owner may consider a gun that is kept in a near-by, quick-access lockbox to be easily accessible–that is both locked and easily accessible. Further, if a gun-owner carries a gun (or otherwise keeps a gun with his/her immediate control) while in the home, that gun is NOT easily accessible to unauthorized users, even though it is unlocked, loaded, and easily accessible to the owner.

    A more helpful question would be whether all guns that are not in use (or not under the owner’s immediate control) are kept unloaded and/or locked. Since an unloaded, inaccessible gun is worthless for emergency self-defense, we should expect that most or all gun-owners citing self-defense as a primary reason for owning a gun will keep a gun accessible often or all of the time. That poll response, however, does not imply that they are doing anything unsafe.

  3. Anonymous4 weeks ago

    A firearm stored separately from ammo is like having a empty fire extinguisher that filled in the event of fire. Teach you kids to shoot and practice regularly. Loaded, locked and ready is the best defense.

    1. Packard Day4 weeks ago

      Mostly agree, but if ever there was “a bell that you will never unring,” having an accidental discharge in a house filled with people is definitely it. Periodic training and the continual safeguarding of a personal self-defense weapon is essential, but zero (ZERO) mistakes are permitted when innocent lives are involved.