Published Date: April 26, 2023

​Summary: Access to a firearm and specific storage practices — such as storing a firearm loaded with ammunition and unlocked — are associated with increased suicide risk. Using 2021 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) estimates, authors of this fact sheet studied adult participants in California who identified themselves as military veterans and who resided in a household with at least one firearm, including those kept in garages, outdoor storage areas, or motor vehicles. Authors describe firearm access and storage practices among California veterans overall, then stratify these by whether respondents reported any lifetime suicidal ideation — an important correlate of future suicide risk.

Findings: 36% of California veterans reported that they resided in a household with at least one firearm that was stored without a locking device, and 13.9% had stored at least one loaded with ammunition and without a locking device. Almost 1 in 5 (18%) of those who resided in households with firearms reported needing professional help in the preceding year for mental health and substance-related services, and 14.1% reported having seriously considered dying by suicide at some point in their life. Of the latter group, almost 1 in 5 reported that they lived in a household with at least one firearm that was stored loaded with ammunition and unlocked.

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