Behavioral economics applies key principles from psychology and economics to address obstacles to behavior change. The important topic of pediatric firearm injuries has not yet been explored through a behavioral economic lens. Pediatric firearm-related injuries are a significant public health problem in the United States. Despite American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines advising that firearms be stored unloaded, in a locked box or with a locking device, and separate from ammunition, estimates suggest that ∼4.6 million children live in homes with at least 1 loaded and unlocked firearm. In this article, we use behavioral economic theory to identify specific cognitive biases (ie, present bias; in-group, out-group bias; and the availability heuristic) that may influence parental decision-making around firearm storage. We illustrate situations in which these biases may occur and highlight implementation prompts, in-group messengers, and increased salience as behaviorally informed strategies that may counter these biases and subsequently enhance safe firearm storage. We also describe other opportunities to leverage the behavioral economic tool kit. By better understanding the individual behavioral levers that may impact decision-making around firearm storage, behavioral scientists, pediatric providers, and public health practitioners can partner to design and test tailored interventions aimed at decreasing pediatric firearm injuries. Further empirical study is warranted to identify the presence of specific biases and heuristics and determine the most effective behavior change strategies for different subpopulations.
Copyright © 2020 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.