Epidemiology: Prevention Research

Improving Firearm Storage Practices in Alaska Native Villages

Key Investigators: David Grossman, M.D., M.P.H., and Thomas Koepsell, M.D., M.P.H.
University of Washington Department of Health Services
Funding Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HIPRC Center Grant)

Rates of suicide among young Alaska Native males are over ten-fold higher than among a similar age cohort in the rest of the U.S. A high proportion of these deaths are associated with firearms. Firearms are an important part of the subsistence lifestyle of this population, however restriction of access to guns by youth may be a promising strategy to reduce the likelihood of suicides in this population. Recent work by the HIPRC has shown that locked guns are associated with a 73% reduced risk of suicide, compared with unlocked guns. A recent pilot project to improve the storage of guns in southwest Alaska increased the proportion of households having all guns locked from 15% to 85%. The aims of this study are to estimate the prevalence of firearm ownership and of specific firearm storage practices among residents living in the Bristol Bay and Yukon-Kuskokwin regions of southwest Alaska, and to work with the Alaska Native health corporations to plan and execute a randomized trial of an intervention to improve firearm storage practices among residents of selected villages.