Date of Award

Summer 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Michael Anestis

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Daniel Capron

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Joye Anestis

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Donald Sacco

Committee Member 4 School



Little is known regarding how to most effectively deliver messaging that promotes safe firearm storage behavior. This study examined the extent to which engagement with firearm means safety messaging is conditional based on type of messaging, political beliefs, past suicidal ideation, and implicit associations of firearms with safety or danger. A sample of 909 American firearm owners recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (mTurk) was randomized to receive standard or gun culture-friendly firearm suicide prevention messaging at baseline, with 608 completing one-month follow-up. Main effects of messaging condition on means safety openness, intention to change firearm storage practices, and actual changes to firearm storage were nonsignificant. Political beliefs did not moderate the impact of messaging condition on openness to firearm means safety; however, those who endorsed more conservative beliefs were generally more open. History of suicidal ideation did not moderate the impact of messaging on openness to means safety. The main effect of suicidal ideation was also nonsignificant. Generally, firearm owners who implicitly associated firearms with danger were more open to means safety. Implicit beliefs moderated the association between messaging and openness to several forms of means safety practices, however, such that those who received the gun culture-friendly messaging were more open if they implicitly associated firearms with safety and less open if they implicitly associated firearms with danger. Results suggest that assessment of implicit attitudes about firearms yields valuable information, and that successful engagement with public health messaging is likely a highly nuanced process predicated on match between message and audience. This study demonstrated the utility of an IAT designed to assess associations of firearms with safety or danger, and provided evidence for the impact of conservative political beliefs and implicit associations about firearms on openness to firearm means safety. Findings provide valuable context for future development and implementation of effective public health messaging regarding safe firearm storage.