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Why You Should Create a Firearm Life Plan

Understanding what’s at stake can better prepare you and your family for the future.


Firearms are an integral part of life for many Americans.

Four-in-ten U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun, including 30% who say they personally own one – 40% of the U.S. population rounds out to 133 million Americans. Source: Pew Research Center. Firearm owners live across the United States and are diverse in their age, gender, race, ethnicity, and cultural backgrounds.

The reasons why people own firearms are as varied as the people who own them. Firearms may be a family tradition, with rifles or handguns passed down from one generation to the next. Some firearm owners use their firearms for hunting, or as part of a ranching or rural lifestyle. Many people own firearms to protect themselves and others. Think about your own life: what are YOUR reasons for owning and using firearms?

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Reasons for owning firearms might change with age.

People own and use firearms for many different reasons and those reasons may change over time. Understanding what firearms mean to YOU and how you expect to use them as you age is important for planning for the future. As reasons for owning a firearm change, so too do some safety concerns.

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“When my teenage daughter was going through a difficult period, I made the decision to rethink in how I was storing some of my rifles on our property. I decided to buy a new gun locker, with new combinations, just to be safe.”
— Robert, 49, Kentucky

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Everyone ages – but each person has their own personal circumstances, histories, and challenges in life. Each firearm owner also views firearms differently, based on experiences, beliefs, and reasons for ownership.

Safe firearm use depends on an individual’s physical and mental fitness, along with their training and commitment to responsible firearm use. And being a responsible firearm owner means making tough calls when mental or physical skills decline. It means reassessing your risk, understanding your needs, and being prepared, even for things we hope don’t happen.

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Normal aging, medical conditions, and medications can lead to physical, emotional, and cognitive changes.

These changes may compromise safe firearm handling abilities.

Responsible firearm handling requires physical strength and manual dexterity for things like using, cleaning, and storing firearms. Arthritis and shakiness in the hands are examples of conditions that can make these activities more difficult. Reflexes and reaction times also slow down as part of the normal aging process.

Emotional changes are common and are often linked to changes in lifestyle, living situation, or outlook on life. Some people may experience anxiety or agitation, while others may feel depressed, hopeless, or have thoughts of suicide.

Finally, cognitive changes – like changes in thinking and memory – also affect safe firearm handling. Not remembering how to be safe in using a firearm is a concern – things like remembering to check if a firearm is loaded or forgetting to maintain muzzle discipline. Other changes in cognition can make a person not recognize a family member and think they’re an intruder, and they can make it harder for a person to honestly assess how safe they are with firearms.

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“It wasn’t easy seeing my mom have issues with her eyesight or being able to move around the home. But as bad as that was, I still was worried about the firearms around her house.”
— Nadia, 55, Oregon

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