The Internet-based survey defined safe storage as placing all guns owned in a locked gun safe, cabinet or case, locked into a gun rack or stored with a trigger lock or other lock.

A recent survey from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers a shocking statistic: More than half of U.S. gun owners do not safely store their firearms.

The survey, believed to be the first nationwide in 15 years, found that just 46 percent of gun owners report safely storing all of their firearms. The Internet-based survey defined safe storage as placing all guns owned in a locked gun safe, cabinet or case, locked into a gun rack or stored with a trigger lock or other lock.

The “disappointing” results expose a “real public health emergency,” said Cassandra Crifasi, an assistant professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Statistically, the results are similar to findings from 15 years ago.

“Household gun ownership can increase the risk of homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings in the home, but practicing safe storage for all guns reduces these risks,” Crifasi said.

The survey found that children younger than 18 were present in about one-third, or 34 percent, of the homes. Gun owners were 44 percent more likely to report safely storing all their firearms if they had a child under 18 in the home. Slightly more than half, or 55 percent, of gun owners with children under 18 reported storing all of their guns safely.

Responsible gun owners store their guns safely where no unauthorized user — including children, other family members, and burglars — has access and follow all applicable laws, said Allison Anderman, managing attorney for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The best way to store guns in the home is to keep them unloaded and separated from ammunition with some sort of trigger, barrel or internal lock, in a locked gun safe, cabinet, case or locked into a gun rack, Crifasi said.

At the very least, guns should be stored unloaded and separated from ammunition, she said.

Access and read the survey report here: Storage Practices of US Gun Owners.