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

Yu Lu, Jeff R. Temple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Substance use is found to associate 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 despite the fact that gun-related experiences often occur among gun owners. Objectives: This study identifies 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 assesses whether these groups differ on their use of alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, hard drugs, and nonmedical use of prescription medication. Methods: This study uses cross-sectional data from Wave 8 of the study Dating it Safe. Participants were 663 young adults (Mean age = 22 years; 62% female). Latent class analysis (LCA) was performed. Results: LCA identified three classes: (1) Minimal Gun Access/Experience (65.0%), (2) Gun Access without Experience (33.4%), (3) Gun Access with Experience (1.6%). Individuals in the Gun Access with Experience class reported more frequent few 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 these in the Minimal Gun Access/Experience and Gun Access without Experience classes, respectively. Conclusions: Individuals who have access to/own guns with and without gun-related experiences face different risks of substance use. Findings highlight 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-339
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 3 2020


  • Gun-related experiences
  • heavy drinking
  • latent class analysis
  • substance use
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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