FIREARMS AND SUICIDE RESEARCH DATA

> See also the GunPolicy.org Website

The following data on suicide and firearms suggest that this evidence can be viewed as a warning to us in the UK that these are some of the effects of firearm possession.  Most articles predict that the storage of a firearm in the home predicts an increased rate of a violent death. The articles have been referenced so that those interested can obtain further information.

Rich, C L; Wagner, J; Fowler, R C; Young, J G; Black, N A ‘Guns and suicide: possible effects of some specific legislation’ in American Journal of Psychiatry; 147 (Mar 90) p.342-6

Describes suicide rates in Toronto and Ontario and methods used for suicide in Toronto for 5 years before and after enactment of Canadian gun control legislation in 1978. Presents data form San Diego, California, where state laws attempt to limit access to guns by certain psychiatric patients. Both sets of data indicate that gun control legislation may have led to decreased use of guns by suicidal men, but the difference was apparently offset by an increase in suicide by leaping.

Wintemute, G J; Kraus, J F; Teret, S P; Wright, M W ‘The choice of weapons in firearm suicides’ in American Journal of Public Health; 78 (Jul 88) p.824-6

Reports on the firearms used in 235 suicides in Sacramento County, California, during 1983-85. Handguns were used in 69 per cent of firearm suicides, 65 per cent for males, 88 per cent for females, and in all such deaths among women ages 35 and older.

Shah, S; Hoffman, R E; Wake, L; Marine, W M  in Journal of Adolescent Health; 26 (3) Mar 2000, p.157-63

Aimed to determine whether, compared with age- and sex-matched controls who did not commit suicide, adolescents who committed suicide by firearms were more likely to have had household access to firearms. Concludes that two types of public health interventions to prevent adolescent firearm suicides are likely to be successful: limiting household access to firearms, and identifying adolescents at high risk of firearm suicide

Cummings, P; Koepsell, T D; Grossman, D C; Savarino, J; Thompson, R S ‘The association between the purchase of a handgun and homicide or suicide’ in American Journal of Public Health; 87 (6) Jun 97, p.974-8

A case-control study was done among the members of a large health maintenance organization. Case subjects were the 353 suicide victims and 117 homicide victims among the members from 1980-1992. 5 control subjects were matched to each case subject on age, sex, and zip code of residence. Handgun purchase information was obtained from the Department of Licensing. For both suicide and homicide, the elevated relative risks persisted for more than 5 years after the purchase. Legal purchase of a handgun appears to be associated with a long-lasting increased risk of violent death.

Kaplan, M S; Adamek, M E; Geling, O; Calderon, A ‘Firearm suicide among older women in the US.’ in Social Science and Medicine; 44 (9) May 97, p.1427-30

Contrary to the common view that older women (65+) in the United States use suicide methods that have relatively low potential for death, firearms have become the most common suicide method in this group. Examines the association between demographic and geographic factors and the use of firearms vs other suicide methods.

Dudley, M; Cantor, C; Moore, G de  ‘Jumping the gun: firearms and the mental health of Australians’ in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry; 30 (3) Jun 96, p.370-81

Reports that 85% of firearm deaths are triggered by distress as opposed to crime and that most firearm homicides are intrafamilial or involve familiar people. Finds a causal relationship between gun ownership and firearm suicides and homicides. Suggests a modest increase in risk of firearms misuse among those suffering from a psychiatric disorder.

Liu, T; Waterbor, J W ‘Declining use of firearms to commit suicide in Alabama in the 1980s’ in Journal of Death and Dying; 30 (2) 1994-95, p.145-53

Trends in method of suicide was examined from 1980-1989. 78.7% of suicides were victims of firearms. Whites had a higher risk of using firearms in suicide. Comparing to single marital status, married, widowed, and divorced people all had increased risks of using firearms. Those living in rural areas were more likely to use firearms in suicide; there was an increasing trend of firearm use with age. But the risk of using firearms to commit suicide has declined in recent years

Zwerling, C; Lynch, C F; Burmeister, L F; Goertz, U in American Journal of Public Health; 83 (11) Nov 93, p.1630-2

Tests the hypothesis that the use of handguns, rifles, and shotguns in such suicides reflects the availability of these weapons. The percentage of firearm suicides involving handguns increased from 36.6% in 1980-1989 to 43.3% during 1990 and 1991. Data suggest that handguns are disproportionately represented among firearm suicides and that this overrepresentation has increased during the last decade.

Malmberg, A; Hawton, K; Simkin, S ‘A study of suicide in farmers in England and Wales’ in Journal of Psychosomatic Research; 43 (1) Jul 97, p.107-11

A psychological autopsy study of suicide in 84 farmers who died between 1991-1994 is presented and some preliminary findings are discussed. The proportional mortality ratio for suicide is higher in farmers than in the general population. The reasons for this are likely to be complex, but may include easy availability of firearms, stress related to work, financial difficulties, and family problems.

Shah, S; Hoffman, R E; Wake, L; Marine, W M ‘Adolescent suicide and household access to firearms in Colorado: results of a case-control study’ in Journal of Adolescent Health; 26 (3) Mar 2000, p.157-63

Aimed to determine whether, compared with age- and sex-matched controls who did not commit suicide, adolescents who committed suicide by firearms were more likely to have had household access to firearms. Concludes that two types of public health interventions to prevent adolescent firearm suicides are likely to be successful: limiting household access to firearms, and identifying adolescents at high risk of firearm suicide.

 

 

 

FACTS ABOUT GUNS

Terminology

Facts about Guns

How Britain Compares with Other Countries

Firearms and Suicide

Gun Deaths and Injuries in the UK