August 02, 2016
1 min read

Reducing firearm availability lowers firearm suicide rates

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Reducing firearm availability and access effectively reduced firearm suicide rates in countries other than the U.S., according to recent findings.

“Suicide is a major cause of premature death in the United States. In 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years of age. Of the 42,773 suicides that year, 21,334 (49.9%) involved a firearm,” J. John Mann, MD, of New York State Psychiatric Institute, and Christina A. Michel, BA, of Columbia University, wrote. “The United States has the highest per capita rate of gun ownership in the developed world. About 38% of households own at least one gun, making firearms widely available to those at risk of suicidal or homicidal behaviors.”

J. John Mann, MD

J. John Mann

To determine potential efficacy of policy-based strategies for firearm suicide prevention in the U.S., researchers conducted an evidence review of 70 relevant publications from 1980 to September 2015.

Greater firearm availability was associated with higher firearm suicide rates, according to analysis of case-control and ecological studies.

Time-series analyses, most of which were based in countries other than the U.S., indicated legislation reducing firearm ownership reduced firearm suicide rates.

Most suicides involved guns purchased years earlier.

“Promising prevention methods must consider that firearm suicide overwhelmingly involves guns that are already purchased. Preventing at-risk individuals from having access to such guns requires targeted legislation like [gun violence restraining orders], safer storage, and smart-gun technology,” the researchers wrote. “Effective implementation of such measures in U.S. society will require more legislative and social action than has been seen thus far. Society must come to value gun safety more in order to better protect depressed and suicidal individuals, and this requires public education and legislation requiring safer gun storage and smart-gun technology on all new firearms sold.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: Mann reports receiving royalties from the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene for commercial use of the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale. Michel reports no relevant financial disclosures.