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Harms and Benefits Inventory (HBI): initial validation of a novel assessment of perceived harms and benefits of firearm policies and practices.

INTRODUCTION: Understanding gun owners' perceptions of potential firearm policies' harms and benefits is critical to successful policy development and implementation. We used national survey data to develop and validate a novel instrument, the Harms and Benefits Inventory (HBI), for policy-makers and advocates to better consider the citizen perspective.

METHOD: We conducted a nationally representative survey of American gun owners and non-owners (N=2007) using the Social Science Research Solutions probability panel. The survey included 31 candidate HBI items and questions about gun ownership and exposure, storage and carry behaviours, policy positions, and sociodemographic characteristics. Exploratory factor analyses (EFAs) were conducted on HBI items from a randomly selected subsample (N=1003) and then tested with a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on data from the second half of the sample (N=1004).

RESULTS: The best-fitting EFA model was upheld in the CFA and included 21 items with 5 underlying factors. Underlying factors included: (1) firearm regulation, cost and accessibility, (2) special restrictions, (3) permit and education, (4) relaxed restrictions and (5) and hobby and sport. Internal consistency was good to excellent within each of the five scales. Validity was supported by correlations between HBI scales and survey questions.

DISCUSSION: Findings support the validity of the HBI in assessing perceptions of potential harms and benefits of firearm policies and practices. Understanding perceptions of potential harms and benefits of gun policies at the time of development or implementation can improve uptake and reduce unintended consequences of these policies.

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