Safe Storage of Firearms Can Save Lives


Since the outbreak of COVID-19, firearm sales across the state have increased; Oregonians are encouraged to safely store their firearms to prevent shooting deaths

OREGON – With gun sales on the rise, Oregonians are reminded that safe storage of firearms – storing firearms unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition – will make their homes and communities safer.

During COVID-19, Oregon gun sales were up 73% between March and April 2020 over March and April of 2019. Firearms are the second-leading cause of death among children and teens in Oregon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Access to unsecured firearms contributes to gun violence among children and teens. Nationally, an estimated 4.6 million American children live in households with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm. An American Medical Association (AMA) study found that households that locked both firearms and ammunition were associated with a 78% lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries and an 85% lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries among children, compared to those that locked neither. Another AMA study estimated that if half of households with children that contain at least one unlocked gun switched to locking all their guns, 1 in 3 youth gun suicides and unintentional deaths could be prevented, saving an estimated 251 lives in a single year.

Safe storage can prevent accidental deaths as well as youth suicides, but the rise in firearm purchases brings to the forefront another deeply troubling aspect of firearm use. Abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their victims. From 2014 to 2018, 32 women were fatally shot by an intimate partner in Oregon. This represents 78% of all intimate partner gun homicides in the state. In an average year, 509 Oregonians die by guns. Access to a gun increases risk across the board: doubling the risk of death by homicide, tripling the risk of suicide, and making it five times more likely that a woman will be killed in domestic violence.

Governor Kate Brown’s message about safe storage

While domestic violence services remain open, many victims and survivors struggle to get help as need increases during coronavirus pandemic. In April, calls to the Call to Safety crisis line increased 10% over the year before. Furthermore, advocates across the state are reporting a stark increase in “lethal” intimate partner violence, or cases where there is a high chance of death if a person must stay in an abusive situation. Law enforcement officials and advocacy groups in Jackson, Deschutes, Multnomah, Clackamas, and Lane Counties have reported exponential increases in domestic violence calls and cases in recent months compared to the same time period last year.

In these unprecedented times, it’s vital to remember that there are resources available to folks in unsafe relationships. There are also resources available for Oregonians who wish to learn more about safe storage, like the Be SMART campaign. Responsible owners always lock up their firearms.

About Author

Sam West is the speechwriter and executive assistant to Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

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