The firearm injury reduction education (fire) program: Formative evaluation insights and implications

Anthony J. Roberto, Amy Janan Johnson, Gary Meyer, Steve L. Robbins, Patricia K. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The Firearm Injury Reduction Education (FIRE) Program is a comprehensive community-based initiative aimed primarily at reducing the number of unintentional firearm injuries and deaths in Michigan. The FIRE Program is a multifaceted intervention that includes the following components: (1) videotaped testimonials; (2) radio public service announcements (PSAs); and (3) pamphlet distribution. In all cases, target audience members have an opportunity to receive a free gun trigger-lock. Several aspects of the social marketing model will be adopted by the FIRE Program. Pre-production formative evaluation is one important part of social marketing. The information reported here contains results of formative evaluation conducted to obtain feedback to develop and improve program components. Specifically, focus groups (N = 6) were conducted with adults and children who owned firearms and/or were members of an at-risk population. Individual indepth interviews were also conducted (N = 11) with law enforcement officers and gun shop owners and/or operators. Results suggest that one can learn a reasonable amount of information from a limited number of focus groups and interviews. Injuries and deaths from guns represent a pervasive problem in American society. Firearms are the second-leading cause of fatal injuries in this country (Kellermann, 1994), and have surpassed automobile accidents in many states to become the leading cause of fatal injuries (Marwick, 1995). In 1994, firearms were involved in 17,866 homicides, there were 1,356 deaths due to unintentional gun injuries and 18,765 individuals prematurely ended their lives through suicide with a firearm (Singh, Kochanek, & MacDorman, 1996). Though fewer individuals died from unintentional shootings, estimates suggest that for every unintentional gunrelated death, there are 13 unintentional gun-related injuries (Annest, Mercy, Gibson, & Ryan, 1995). Overall, for every gun-related death, estimates indicate that approximately seven people are injured by guns (Kellermann, 1994). The availability of a gun in a home is cited as a major contributing factor in each of these cases (Michigan Task Force on Interpersonal 'Violence Prevention and Reduction, 1994; Cook, 1979; Zimring, 1968; McDowall, 1991; Brent et al., 1991; Kellermann et al., 1992; Cotton, 1992), especially when the gun is stored loaded but not locked (Wintemut, Teret, Kraus, Wright, & Bradfield, 1987).Gun-related injuries and deaths carry a heavy price tag in terms of yearsof- life lost and money spent to treat victims. National estimates indicate that annual costs related to firearm injuries and deaths average $14 billion (Voelker, 1995). Additionally, the life lost is often a young one, losing the potential for many years as a productive citizen. With regard to intentional firearm deaths, 20- to 24-yearolds have the highest death rate (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 1993). Unintentional gun injuries are the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24- year-olds and the fourth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds in the United States (Kellermann, Lee, Mercy, & Banton, 1991). The populations at greatest risk for gun-related suicide include males 10- to 34-years-old and those 70 and older (Rosenberg, 1993). These statistics illustrate the seriousness of firearm injuries and deaths. Treating this issue as a public health concern has been growing in popularity as a realistic option to reduce gun violence. Firearm injuries and deaths are increasingly being referred to as an "epidemic" (Mason & Proctor, 1992; Novello, Shosky, & Froehlke, 1992; Randall, 1990), "a public health emergency" (Novello et al., 1992), and one of "the most critical health problems this country faces" (Randall, 1990).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-35
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Marketing Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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