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TMA Public Health Committee Aims to Educate Doctors on Safe Storage of Firearms
Safe storage of firearms may prevent suicide and unintentional injuries and deaths.

September 2, 2022

Nashville, TN — Tennessee Medical Association’s Public Health Committee, in cooperation with the Board of Trustees, is working with law enforcement groups to educate and support TMA members on counseling patients regarding firearms safety and safe gun storage.

According to a recent analysis of CDC data, there were 45,222 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2020, a new high. Firearm injury was the leading cause of death for children and adolescents (ages 1-19 years) in 2020, representing a 29.5% increased incidence of firearm-related death from 2019 among this age group.1

Over 40% of homes in the United States have at least one gun, and access to a gun is the leading risk factor for death among children and adolescents due to accidental shooting, suicide, or homicide.2 Studies have shown that safe storage practices (such as storing firearms unloaded, securing the firearms with an external locking device, and keeping ammunition locked in a separate location) can reduce the risk of suicide and unintentional firearm injury among children and youth.3,4 Despite these recommendations, a recent survey showed that only 3 in 10 adult gun owners with children in the household reported following safe storage practices.5

Secure storage of a firearm can be accomplished in three easy steps:

  1. Unload. Remove all ammunition from the firearm, including any chambered rounds.
  2. Lock. Secure guns with a firearm locking device, such as a jacket lock, or in a locked location, like a safe or lockbox.
  3. Separate. Store ammunition in a secure location separate from the firearm.

In addition, firearm accessibility is a significant risk factor for death by suicide among adults.6 Improving access to mental health treatment and early intervention remain ongoing goals to reduce the incidence of gun violence and suicide. Physicians are also uniquely positioned to mitigate risk through screening and counseling patients regarding firearm safety, just as they do for other health-related behaviors such as healthy diet, physical activity, and injury prevention.

The following resources are available online for physicians who wish to learn more about how they can take an active role in promoting firearm safety and safe gun storage practices among patients and their families:



1. Goldstick JE, Cunningham RM, Carter PM. Current causes of death in children and adolescents in the United States. NEJM. 2022;386:1955-1956.
2. Firearms and children. Updated June 2022. Accessed July 11,2022.
3. Grossman DC, Mueller BA, Riedy C, et al. Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries. JAMA. 2005;293(6):707-714.
4. Monuteaux MC, Azrael D, Miller M. Association of increased safe household firearm storage with firearm suicide and unintentional death among US youths. JAMA Pediatrics. 2019;173(7):657-662.
5. Azrael D, Cohen J, Salhi C, Miller M. Firearm storage in gun-owning households with children: results of a 2015 national survey. J Urban Health. 2018;95(3):295-304.
6. Studdert DM, Zhang Y, Swanson SA, et al. Handgun ownership and suicide in California. NEJM. 2020;382:2220-2229.