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Guns & Suicide

The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut has many questioning issues as far ranging from gun control to access to mental health services. A paper published in the America Journal of Public Health (January 2013) details the evidence that “means restriction”  of firearms reduces the risk of suicide.

via Rob Barrett Photography on Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Some critical lines from the paper…


“…there is now a large body of evidence suggesting that means restriction not only reduces suicides by that method but also reduces overall suicide rates.”


“In a survey of 36 wealthy nations, the United States was unique in having the highest overall fire-arm mortality rate and the highest proportion of suicides by fire-arms. Guns are used for more suicides in the United States each year than for homicides (17 352 vs 12 632, respectively, in 2007). There is strong evidence that access to firearms, whether from household availability or a new purchase, is associated with increased risk of suicide. The risk of suicide by guns is far higher in states with high rates of gun ownership than in those with low ownership rates. The increased risk of suicide applies not only to the gun owner but to others living in a household with guns.”


“In accordance with the medical evidence, we recommend a waiting period for purchasing handguns with a requirement for a permit or license that includes firearm safety training. For a suicidal person who does not already own a handgun, a delay in the purchase of one allows time for suicidal impulses to pass or diminish. Safe gun storage for all households delays or prevents access to a gun for a suicidal person living with a gun owner. Federal laws restricting the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition to minors should be implemented and enforced in all states. Firearms should not be sold to ‘prohibited persons’ at high risk of harming themselves and others. Some states already mandate such measures. An opportunity to survive a transient suicidal impulse should be provided to individuals in all states.”

The article is available here.

Cedric Dark, MD, MPH, FACEP
About Cedric Dark, MD, MPH, FACEP

Cedric Dark, MD, MPH, FACEP is Founder and Executive Editor of Policy Prescriptions®. A summa cum laude graduate of Morehouse College, Dr. Dark earned his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine. He holds a master’s degree from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He completed his residency training at George Washington University. Currently, Dr. Dark is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and a Health Policy Scholar in the Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. He produces a health policy podcast for the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Dark’s commentary and opinions on this website are his own and do not represent the views of Baylor College of Medicine or the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Contact: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | YouTube | More Posts

3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  3. Suicides Account for Bulk of Firearm Deaths | Policy Prescriptions ®

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