Rates of firearm-related suicide and homicide were lower in states with strong policies on guns, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“States regulate how firearms are bought, sold and tracked, as well as who may purchase them,” Elinore J. Kaufman, MD, MSHP, from New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Stronger firearm policy environments have been associated with lower rates of firearm deaths, as have specific laws... Laws, however, vary widely among states, and evidence of their impact is limited.”
“Firearms may move across state lines, presenting a challenge to effective state policies,” they added.
Kaufman and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study to investigate the association between strength of state and interstate firearm laws and rates of firearm deaths from homicide and suicide. They assessed data from the CDC on firearm suicides and homicides between January 2010 and December 2014 in 3,108 counties in the 48 contiguous states in the U.S. Counties were categorized as having low (zero included policies), medium (one to two policies) or high (three to ten policies) home state and interstate policy scores.
Rates of firearm-related suicide and homicide were lower in states with strong policies on guns.
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The researchers found that states with stronger firearm laws had lower rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide. These rates were seen regardless of how strong the laws were in nearby states.
The highest rates of firearm suicide were observed in counties with low state policy scores. There were similar rates of firearm suicide among low (IRR = 1.34; 95% CI, 1.11-1.65), medium (IRR = 1.36; 95% CI, 1.15-1.65) and high (IRR = 1.43; 95% CI, 1.2-1.73) interstate policy scores.
The highest rates of firearm homicide were seen in counties with low state and low or medium interstate scores. Firearm homicide rates (IRR = 1.38; 95% CI, 1.02-1.88) and overall homicide rates (IRR = 1.32; 95% CI, 1.03-1.67) were higher in counties with low home state and interstate policy scores. Firearm homicide rates were lower in counties with weak state, but high interstate scores.
Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana were among the states with the lowest combined home state and interstate policy scores, while New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey were among the states with the highest scores.
“Our findings support strengthening state firearm policies to reduce the incidence of both firearm suicide and homicide, with benefits that may extend across state lines,” Kaufman and colleagues concluded.
ACP recently urged physicians to discuss firearm safety with patients. – by Alaina Tedesco
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.