Understanding CDC Report On Unsecured Firearms

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File

I've long been an advocate of securing guns when they're not in use, including keeping guns out of the hands of children by locking them up. Yet the truth of the matter is that the advice doesn't apply to all people at all times.


While the media likes to make a big deal out of someone like the Oxford shooter, who took an unsecured gun and killed his classmates, there are a lot of people out there who know where the gun in their household is, know how to access it, and don't intend to get it without permission unless their life depends on it.

A recent report from the CDC has been talking about unsecured guns. It's gotten a lot of play from the media with all the associated gasps and clutching of pearls, but over at The Gun Writer, Lee Williams took a deeper look at the so-called study after noting several examples of minors getting unsecured firearms and using them to defend themselves and others.

What Williams found was that the report is an absolute trainwreck.

The report, titled “Firearm Storage Behaviors — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Eight States, 2021–2022,” was based on telephone interviews. The researchers called the respondents using a “random-digit–dialed landline and mobile telephone survey.” However, the authors immediately encountered four significant problems that limited the validity of their work:

  1. They were unable to determine whether firearms were stored loaded or unloaded during the phone interviews.

  2. They were only able to obtain data from the eight states, which is statistically meaningless.

  3. Some respondents did not want to disclose whether they had a firearm in their home.

  4. All of the data was self-reported to the researchers, and therefore “subject to social desirability and recall biases.”

As a result, the findings were statistical gibberish. In the handful of states that participated, the authors concluded, “18.4% – 50.6% of respondents reported the presence of a firearm in or around their home, and 19.5% – 43.8% of those with a firearm reported that at least one firearm was stored loaded.”

Despite its holes, lack of conclusiveness and other problems, the CDC report was good enough for the corporate media. Gannett’s flagship newspaper USA TODAY quickly published a story titled, “Startling percentage of homes have unlocked, loaded guns, endangering kids, study finds.”


All of those caveats mean that while the study might have some validity to the overall understanding of the issue--and I'm being very generous here--it's not something that can or should be taken as gospel. More research would be needed ordinarily, but this particularly study has so many holes in it that it should be in the dairy section.

Let's be real here, 18 to 50 percent is a huge difference. It's enough of a difference that no one can or should draw meaningful conclusions about literally anything.

Williams goes on to note that the CDC is still barred from using taxpayer money to advocate for gun control and argues we need to be vigilant that this fact doesn't change. I'm in complete agreement.

He also notes that defensive gun uses are a thing that needs to be considered because he's right.

Yes, I think guns should be locked up in not in use, but having one handy for home defense counts as "in use" to me. Further, parents know their children better than the state ever could. They know if their child could be trusted with a firearm and at what ages they could.

For example, my son most definitely could be trusted with a gun as early as 10. My daughter, at 12, still hasn't shown the level of responsibility needed for me to trust her with firearm access. Each kid is different and that's fine.

However, mandatory storage laws take the decision out of the parents' hands and decrees that kids cannot access firearms.

Yet there are three examples Williams gives as to why that's a problem. Three situations where, had a kid been denied access to a firearm, we'd have dead children rather than a bad guy with a brand new hole in them.


What's more, the CDC's report didn't take any of that into account, either. As a result, none of the media reporting on this has included it, either. They haven't bothered to talk to anyone who might have a perspective that doesn't support this as a horrible thing, which is why the media is so distrusted these days.

But there's a lot more to the story than what's making it into the news.

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