hemenway's "Firearm Training and Storage" Study

rev. 11/10/2k








The report on this study was published in the Jan 4, '95 issue of the journal of the American medical association (jAma).  The authors were dedicated gun controller david hemenway and two up-and-coming lower level gun controllers at the Harvard school of public health.

The authors started off with some background that included the fact that one of the Healthy People 2000 objectives (that the CDC and virtually the entire medical community buys into) "is a 20% reduction in the 'proportion of people who possess weapons that are inappropriately stored and therefore dangerously available.'"  Next came an explanation that, although it is generally agreed that guns should "be stored unloaded in a locked area," "National surveys have found that one third to one half of all firearm owners keep their guns loaded at least some of the time."  In stating so, they referenced weil and hemenways' worthless '92 study, addressed here, about "keeping" guns loaded in the home--AND referenced a '93 survey by L.H. Research and the Gallup survey that was referenced in the weil-hemenway paper.

Then the authors referenced a bunch of doctors and medical organizations that support, or have called for, people having to receive gun safety training as a prerequisite to gun ownership.  They referenced a survey that supposedly indicates that even most gun owners think so.  Then, to get to the justification for performing the subject study, "it is not clear that a lack of formal training explains current gun storage practices.  The one study to examine the issue found that prior training was not associated with storing guns safely," again referencing weil and hemenway's '92 study that did not even deal with storing AND demonstrated complete author ignorance of gun safety!

Finally, the purpose/objective of the study:  "This article analyzes data from a national random sample of gun owners to provide information on the firearm training they received, how they store their guns, and the relationship between training and storage practices."


The basis survey was a survey of 800 people who admitted/claimed to be gun owners 18 or over when they were called by telephone, where the numbers dialed were randomly dialed residential numbers.  Controlled numbers of owners were contacted from each of the states, as usual.  The authors did not mention whether or not Alaska or Hawaii were excluded.  Although the authors described the survey as random, it really wasn't since they did not actually include those people who answered and did not admit to there being a gun in the household, or those who refused to participate.

The article said that the outcome variables that questions were about "concerned firearm training and firearm storage."  The respondents (Rs) were asked if they had ever had formal firearm training, by whom the training was provided, the hours of training received, how long ago the most recent was and, if it was within the last 5 years, what topics were covered.  Per the article:

"Respondents were asked three questions about firearm storage:  whether any gun was currently (1)loaded, (2)unlocked, and (3)loaded and unlocked."

Well, there it is!  They didn't even ask about STORAGE, even though the authors said they did.  They either don't know what storage is or they just purposely try to mislead the medical community that has the gullibility to trust what they read in the jAma.  Maybe they are just so stupid about having a gun for defense that they can't fathom a person using the gun while she is on the phone with a surveyor.

Still, looking at the rest of their paper is constructive.  So.....

Other questions covered gender, age group, whether anyone under 18 lived in the home, education level, household income level, live in "south," city/suburb/rural?, gun in parents' home when young, own handgun, more than one gun, one for protection, and NRA membership.

The analyses examined the extent to which the variables were associated with:  (1)received formal gun training; (2)keep gun unlocked and loaded; and, (3)keep gun loaded (whatever "keeping" guns in those conditions might have meant to the Rs).  Separate analyses were run for most recent training within the past 5 years, earlier, training of 80 hours or more, and less training.


62% of the alleged gun owners were men.  90% said they were white.

In the following explanations of the results the authors claimed, the results are stated as facts as the authors did rather than as information about what people said.


56% of the owners (74% for men, 29% for women) had received formal training--48% military, 8% in security or law enforcement, 11% NRA, and 33% "other."  45% of the training was for over 80 hours, and 30% of the training was within the past 5 years.  79% of training included coverage of storage.  Things that were most associated with "have had training" included:  NRA membership, owning handgun, owning for protection, and living outside the "south."

Gun Storage

21% of the gun owners reported having a firearm in the home that was (at the time) loaded and unlocked.  Of the 311 gun owners who had children under 18 in the home, 14% had at least one firearm loaded and unlocked at the time the person was talking to the surveyor on the phone (although the authors said keep).  Things that were associated with the R claiming (s)he had (at the time of the phone call) at least one firearm loaded and unlocked were:  owning for protection, owning a handgun, having a college degree, and not having children at home.

29% of Rs said they had a gun loaded.  It appears that this includes the 21% who said they had a gun that was both loaded and unlocked.  Things that were associated with claiming having a loaded gun included:  living in the south, owning for protection, owning a handgun, being an NRA member, not having children around, and having a gun unlocked.  Again, the authors didn't say, "having a gun unlocked" although that's what the Rs were actually asked about.  Instead, they said "storing a gun unlocked."

The Relationship Between Training and Gun Storage

This is good.  Persons who had training were significantly more likely than others to have said they had a gun loaded and unlocked.  Training source, length, and recency were not significantly associated with claiming to have a loaded gun or a loaded, unlocked gun [again, the authors said "store" loaded rather than talking about gun state at the time of the telephone conversation].

Now, before we get too far past it, note that they found that the best educated people and those who have had training tend to say they have a loaded and/or unlocked gun while they are home, although the authors represent this as being people who keep or store guns loaded and/or unlocked.


As one should expect from hemenway, the authors took plenty of opportunity to comment in their article.  First they said that, according to US DOJ statistics, 49% of US households have at least one firearm.  Then, based on the authors' findings of 21% of gun owner (households) saying they had a loaded and unlocked gun at the time, the authors claimed that they had found that, in about 20% of US homes, "a firearm is currently loaded and unlocked," and that (therefore) "about 10% of homes contain an immediately usable firearm."

The truth is that DOJ doesn't know even remotely how many US households have one or more firearms.  The truth is that there are, without doubt more than DOJ thinks.  Also, note that hemenway and his trainees conclude that a specific part of US households at any given moment, like right now, have the loaded, unlocked gun although what they had really found was that 21% of the households with an adult owner at home had a loaded, unlocked gun!  From their study and the DOJ estimate it would be reasonable to conclude that approximately 10% of US households have a gun loaded and unlocked while the gun owner is home.

Their next comment was about their finding that most gun owners had received gun training but that, "individuals who have received training are more likely to keep a gun loaded and unlocked than [others]."  Then they wrote:

"for those who had received training in the past 5 years, four of five reported that gun storage was covered in their most recent training program.  Yet 27% of these respondents...keep a gun loaded and unlocked in their home, as do 27% of all individuals who have ever received formal firearm training.....Moreover, although 45% of gun owners who received formal training received more than 80 hours of training, training duration did not affect gun storage practices....

"We can only speculate as to why training is positively related to storing guns loaded and unlocked...."

Note here that they mentioned that the owners had training on storage but then jumped to talking about keep although the questions that were asked of gun owners were about neither of these, being instead about the state of guns at the time of the questioning.  Note too that they said training duration did not affect "gun storage practices" although they had not acquired any data about storage practices.  Finally, note that they transitioned to wondering why training seemed to be related to "storing guns loaded and unlocked" although they had no information about the extent to which owners store guns loaded and unlocked.

In remaining comments, the authors several times talked about keep and various forms of the verb.  Some of the other comments were:

"Our results are consistent with those from a 1989 survey of gun owners.  [This was the worthless weil and hemenway '92 study, covered here.]  A question from that survey asked whether the owner sometimes or always kept the gun loaded; we asked [in this survey] whether any gun is currently loaded.  Both surveys found that...storing a gun unlocked are associated with keeping a gun loaded in the home.....

"Design modification is another method of reducing the [death and injury] associated with firearm discharges.  Two devices--a childproof safety mechanism and a mechanism that indicates whether a gun is loaded--could reduce unintentional firearm fatalities by more than 30%. [referencing a US General Accounting Office report]...the Government Accounting ["Accountability" now] Office suggests the need for 'proper education in the use and handling of firearms.'

"Reducing inappropriate storage of guns is an objective for the year 2000, with mandatory gun training often presented as the means to achieve this objective.  Unfortunately, our results indicate not only that many individuals keep their guns loaded and unlocked, but also that training is associated with a higher incidence of this type of potentially dangerous practice.  ...complete reliance on the training strategy may be misplaced."

Note in the preceding that the authors continued representing their findings as being about storage of guns loaded or unlocked.  And, you can bet that the GAO gun safety expert clerks didn't even know that many of those guns in those several accidental gun deaths in which the shooter said, "I didn't know the gun was loaded" actually had "loaded" indicators, OR that children generally wouldn't know what the device was unless they had received the firearms familiarization training that the gun controllers object to.  Finally, note that the authors characterized as "this type of potentially dangerous practice" something that was actually nothing more than people having guns loaded and unlocked while they are home.

The small print at the end of their paper:  Their study was funded by you and I again via the doctors at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with no requirement for the researchers to provide their data to anyone (even the federal government that paid for it).


Again, a medical "study" that is a cornerstone of the gun controller agenda although it doesn't show anything like what its authors and gun controllers in general claim that it shows.