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Gun access, ownership, gun-related experiences, and substance use in young adults: a latent class analysis

NCJ Number
American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Dated: 2020
Date Published

This study identified groups of young adults based on their gun access/ownership and gun-related experiences (i.e., gun carrying, threatened someone with a gun, been threatened with a gun) and assessed whether these groups differed on their use of alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, hard drugs, and nonmedical use of prescription medication. 


Substance use has been found to be associated with gun violence; however, mixed findings have been reported for gun access/ownership. To date, studies have examined gun access/ownership and gun-related experiences (e.g., carrying) separately, even though gun-related experiences often occur among gun owners. The current study used cross-sectional data from Wave 8 of the study Dating it Safe. Participants were 663 young adults (Mean age = 22 years; 62 percent female). Latent class analysis (LCA) was performed. CA identified three classes: (1) Minimal Gun Access/Experience (65.0 percent), (2) Gun Access without Experience (33.4 percent), and (3) Gun Access with Experience (1.6 percent). Individuals in the Gun Access with Experience class reported more frequent past month alcohol (17 days vs. 7 and 8 days, p < .001), episodic heavy drinking (13 days vs. 2 and 3 days, p < .001), and cigarette use (21 days vs. 10 and 10 days, p < .001) compared to those in the Minimal Gun Access/Experience and Gun Access without Experience classes, respectively. Individuals who have access to/own guns with and without gun-related experiences face different risks of substance use. These findings indicate the need to examine gun access/ownership based on actual gun experiences and further emphasize the importance of addressing substance abuse for gun violence prevention. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020