Many Surveyed Adolescents Have Immediate Access to Loaded Firearms in the United States

This study sought to examine adolescent firearm access in homes with guns, how storage may modify access, and the discordance between parent and adolescent reports of access.

Many adolescents live in homes with ready access to loaded firearms, according to results of a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers from Northeastern University and Harvard University analyzed data from the 2019 National Firearms Survey collected between June 30 and August 11, 2019. Adults with children living in their home had the option to have their children complete a separate survey. The adolescents were asked whether they had access to a loaded firearm and how long it would take them to obtain a loaded firearm.

A total of 4030 adults (aged 45.2±7.2 years, 48.3% men) and 318 adolescents (aged 15.0±1.4 years, 60.8% boys) completed the survey. Most households (73.2%) had a firearm and few adolescents (n=10) reported living in a home with no gun or were unsure (n=25).

Households with firearms reported having an average of 6.6 (standard deviation [SD], 8.1) guns. The firearms were unlocked in 48.7% (95% CI, 39.6%-57.7%) of houses and 53.8% (95% CI, 40.4%-67.2%) of the unlocked guns were loaded.

The adolescents reported they could gain access to a loaded firearm in under 5 minutes (33.9%; 95% CI, 26.7%-41.2%) or an hour (17.4%; 95% CI, 12.1%-22.6%). Stratified by number of firearms, more adolescents who lived in a house with ³5 guns reported having immediate access (43.0%; 95% CI, 30.3%-55.7%) than houses with 1 gun (18.8%; 95% CI, 1.0%-36.7%).

The majority of parents (70.4%) reported their children could not access a firearm. A fifth of their children reported having firearm access within 5 minutes (21.8%) and 14.9% said they could obtain a firearm within an hour. More children of parents who did not own a gun contradicted their parent’s belief that they did not have access.

This study may have been biased by the skewed gender of adolescents and the fact that only 1 adolescent was surveyed per household.

These data suggested that many adolescents in the United States had ready access to loaded firearms, often with the knowledge of their parent.


Salhi C, Azrael D, Miller M. Parent and adolescent reports of adolescent access to household firearms in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(3):e210989. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.0989.