News Ticker

America Should Invest in Gun Violence Research

Since 1996, gun rights leaders and manufacturers have kept a muzzle on science (Volume 9, Issue 43)

Suicide is often an impulsive act. A person has a short-term mental health crisis and spontaneously considers suicide. Most who survive suicide do not usually die from another attempt.

Committing suicide by gun is one of the most common and lethal methods. To support a culture of life, more research into suicide prevention and guns is needed.

Stéphane DEMOLOMBE (Flickr/CC)

Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi re-examined data from a previous study about the impact of state handgun laws on suicides. They found that states with universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods statistically significantly reduced suicide rates from 2013-2014 compared to states with one or neither of these laws.

These findings show that restrictions before the point of ownership could reduce suicides. This is consistent with previous studies.

Laws regulating gun lock use or open carry of handguns did not have an effect on suicide rate. While after purchase regulations of open carry of handguns and gun locks may not reduce suicides, they may affect other public health problems such as accidents, injuries, or a subset of suicide deaths among adolescents.

Questions remain about gun regulations and effective suicide prevention. However, some economic interests are opposed to restrictions. Gun manufacturers make more money by selling guns not by restricting them. The gun industry then uses their profits to support the National Rifle Association in protecting its financial interests to peddle weapons.

In 1996, gun rights leaders and firearm manufacturers felt threatened by a single study. They pressured legislators to pass the Dickey Amendment to an appropriations bill cutting the gun safety research budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, the amendment hinders firearms research, although the namesake admits it was a mistake.

Federal funding should be restored to research the serious problems of gun violence and suicide. While the current presidential administration has proposed slashing scientific research budgets, cooler heads within Congress understand the importance of supporting biomedical and public health research. They should invest in our security by financing gun violence research.

commentary by Bich-May Nguyen


Objectives. To examine the extent to which 4 laws regulating handgun ownership were associated with statewide suicide rate changes. Methods. To test between-group differences in statewide suicide rate changes between 2013 and 2014 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with and without specific laws, we ran analyses of covariance. Results.We found significant differences in suicide rate changes from 2013 to 2014 in states with mandatory waiting periods and universal background checks relative to states without such laws. States with both laws differed significantly from those with neither. No significant differences in rate changes were noted for open carry restrictions or gun lock requirements. Conclusions. Some state laws regulating aspects of handgun acquisition may be associated with lower statewide suicide rates. Laws regulating handgun storage and carrying practices may have a smaller effect, highlighting that legislation is likely most useful when its focus is on preventing gun ownership rather than regulating use and storage of guns already acquired. Public Health Implications. The findings add to the increasing evidence in support of a public health approach to the prevention of suicide via firearms, focusing on waiting periods and background checks. PMID: 28207333

Anestis, MD, et al. AJPH. 2017;107 (4): 579-581.

Bich-May Nguyen, MD, MPH
About Bich-May Nguyen, MD, MPH

Dr. Nguyen Bich-May Nguyen, MD, MPH cares for patients at a patient-centered medical home and teaches medical students and residents in the clinic and hospital setting. She received an MD in the Underserved Track from Baylor College of Medicine and an MPH with a concentration in health policy from Harvard School of Public Health. She completed her residency training in Family Medicine at Boston University. Dr. Nguyen is involved with the National Physicians Alliance and serves on the Executive Committee of the New Leaders Council Houston. You can follow her at @bicmay. She began contributing to Policy Prescriptions™ in 2013. Contact: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | More Posts