How to reduce US firearm suicide rates?

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) have found that legislation reducing access to firearms has lowered firearm suicide rates in other countries. This finding is based on evidence from around the world on the relationship between firearm ownership and firearm suicide rates.

The report was published recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

To reduce firearm suicide rates in the United States, the authors recommended several measures, such as targeted legislation to limit firearm access to individuals at risk for suicide, using smart gun technology, offering public education on firearm suicide, and research to evaluate the effectiveness of prevention methods.

According to the authors, half of suicide deaths involve a firearm. In 2014, of the more than 33,500 firearm deaths in the United States, over 21,000 were the result of suicide. About 38 percent of U.S. households own at least one gun, making firearms widely available to those at risk of suicide.

Their findings and recommendations were based on a review of case-control, ecological, and time-series studies from the United States and other countries. The researchers extrapolated from gun control measures implemented elsewhere in considering what might be possible and effective in preventing firearm suicides in the U.S.

Studies in the U.S. showed, at both ecological and individual levels, that greater firearm availability is associated with greater risk of firearm suicide. Globally, four studies in other developed countries found that per capita gun ownership correlates with national firearm suicide rates.

Over the three-year period from 2000 to 2002, the 15 states with the highest household firearm ownership (47 percent) had almost twice as many suicides (N=14,809) as the six states with the lowest firearm ownership (15 percent, N=8,052). This difference in overall suicides is largely accounted for by the difference in firearm suicides (9,749 compared with 2,606). Non-firearm suicides (5,060 compared with 5,446) and the total populations of the two sets of states were comparable.

While states vary widely in the stringency of their firearm laws, recent studies are encouraging about the potential benefits of targeted and multifaceted firearm restrictions, including purchasing permits, waiting periods, safe storage, gun violence restraining orders, background checks, and registration guidelines. All of these measures have been associated with lower firearm suicide rates and lower overall suicide rates.

Smart gun technology, such as fingerprint recognition, limits use of a gun to the owner and permitted users. Mandating that new guns use the new technology and instituting trade-in programs to replace old guns with safer ones can prevent a household's firearms from being used for suicide by family members or others with access to the firearm.

Safe storage methods, keeping guns unloaded, methods of identifying individuals at risk of suicide, and changing the belief that a suicide is "inevitable" are among the public health messages that may help reduce firearm suicide rates. Social marketing initiatives to change public perceptions—similar to the successful campaigns to prevent driving while impaired, encourage seat belt use, and promote smoking cessation—may also prove valuable in reducing firearm suicide rates.

"These findings illustrate the influence that social policy can have on medical conditions, in this case suicide," noted Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, chair of the department of psychiatry at CUMC and director of NYSPI.

All methods to reduce firearm require not only implementation, but also monitoring and systematic evaluation of their effectiveness. "Ultimately," said J. John Mann, MD, the Paul Janssen Professor of Translational Neuroscience (in Psychiatry and in Radiology) at CUMC, director of the Molecular Imaging and Neuropathy division at NYSPI, and senior author, "such program evaluation and lifting the ban on federalfunding of research on firearm violence will help improve efforts to reduce firearm suicide mortality."

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Firearm ownership closely tied to suicide rates, study finds

More information: J. John Mann et al, Prevention of Firearm Suicide in the United States: What Works and What Is Possible, American Journal of Psychiatry (2016). DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16010069
Journal information: American Journal of Psychiatry

Citation: How to reduce US firearm suicide rates? (2016, July 28) retrieved 15 October 2019 from
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Jul 28, 2016
When Australia "confiscated" firearms the firearm suicide rate went down considerably. However, the overall suicide rate did not. Which just goes to prove if someone wants to kill themselves they will find a way. Concentrate on the suicide problem, not the firearm problem!

Jul 28, 2016
How sad that a so-called scientist would sell his reputation to produce such junk science. Since it is impossible for a firearm to commit suicide, there is no such thing as "firearm suicides". No matter what method the person chooses to use to commit suicide the reason they decided suicide is what needs to be studied and only in the cause can you find a solution.
Yes, junk scientist are quick to use Australia as a shining example of their faux theories, but it is a straw man argument at best. Australia confiscated nearly all privately owned firearms in 1996. In 1996 there were 2,393 suicides, however in 2014 there were 2,864 suicides. That number is probably considerably higher since it has been observed that Australia has dangerously miscalculated its suicide statistics - by as much as 30% in NSW and Queensland.
Hanging has replaced firearms as the number one method for committing suicide. So the old saying is true, if someone wants to kill themselves they will.

Jul 28, 2016
According to the CDC, more than half of suicides are by methods other than firearms. Furthermore, the US suicide rate has increased notably over the past 7 years.

The rate of suicide by methods other than guns is growing 50% faster than by using guns.

Using similar logic that gun control advocates use for violence (which is force and therefore not a choice) by wrongly including suicides to inflate their numbers, we should include drug ODs and complications from smoking as unintended or slow forms of suicide, thereby inflating the suicide numbers to almost 200,000 per year.

The involvement of firearms in the discussion of suicide is a distraction for political purposes.

What we should be doing is setting up clinics so that people can commit suicide comfortably and with minimal impact on others.

By the way, the suicide rate in Japan pretty much blows the idea that having guns in a house increases the desire to commit suicide. It is much higher than the US's.

Jul 29, 2016
Two countries, side by side, big difference in gun ownership and gun laws:
Suicide rate/Country
9.8 Canada
12.1 USA (19% higher),

Males are more likely to choose a gun if one is available.USA is 23% higher for males, only 7.5% higher for females indicating that gun availability is the main factor in the difference.

On Australia:
"Data from the ABS also indicates the rate of suicide by firearm fell by 67 per cent from 2.1 deaths per 100,000 of the population in 1996 to 0.7 deaths in 2014." (ABC Fact Check) Less than 20% of suicides were by gun. The total fell by 1.5% after gun control (the increase in non-gun suicides was less than the decrease in gun related suicides).Handguns were not allowed even before 1996.

In the USA a much larger portion of suicides are by guns (50%) and so a much bigger drop can be expected.

See Huffington Post for details. (rgburrill is wrong)

Jul 29, 2016
http : //www . ncbi . nlm . nih . gov/pubmed/18839044

Controlling firearms use in Australia: has the 1996 gun law reform produced the decrease in rates of suicide with this method?
Dr. Helen Klieve, Michael Barnes, Prof. Diego De Leo MD, PhD, DSc, FRANZCP

Klieve H1, Barnes M, De Leo D.
Author information


Observed reductions in firearm suicides in Australia have been linked to the 1997 national firearms agreement (NFA) introduced following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. The NFA placed strong access restrictions on firearms.
To assess the impact of legislative restrictions on the incidence of firearm suicide in Queensland and explore alternative or contributory factors behind observed declines.
The implemented restrictions not responsible for the observed reductions in firearms suicide. Data suggest that a change in social and cultural attitudes could have contributed to the shift in method preference.

Jul 29, 2016
http : //www . tandfonline . com/doi/full/10 . 1080/13811118.2012.667330#abstract

Suicide Prevention and Method Restriction: Evaluating the Impact of Limiting Access to Lethal Means Among Young Australians


Given the finite resources allocated to suicide prevention, it is necessary to direct resources into interventions that are most likely to have an impact.

This article tests for possible impacts on youth suicides of a cost-intensive Australian policy change (increased firearms restriction) that limited access to a means of suicide.

Suicide rates by different age groups and methods were examined for structural breaks, using Zivot-Andrews and Quandt tests.

No breakpoint was found in firearm suicide among Australian youth around the time of the 1996 legislative changes.

Method restriction in the form of firearms legislation could not be tied to a corresponding impact on youth suicide.

Such a consistent trend anywhwere in the world

Jul 29, 2016
On top of that, Australia's probative burdens on suicide rulings by coroners were made stricter about 15 years ago, which caused an immediate false and sustained lowering of suicide statistics rates simply due to policy changes

https : //www . mja . com . au/journal/2010/192/8/achieving-standardised-reporting-suicide-australia-rationale-and-program-change

Jul 29, 2016
Suicide has not been a felony crime in any state since 1992

Suicide by choice of firearm accounted for only 2.15% of all suicides attempted out of the 1.311 mil attempts per CDC

Isnt it hilarious how anti gunnutters never can prove guns cause the mental illness that drives the suicides attempted

Isnt it hilarious how anti gunnutters never can prove suicides attempts are reduced by any gun control in ANY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD

By the way not only are drug overdose suicides undercounted by 20% to 40% within drug overdose deaths, drug overdose deaths themselves are undercounted in western countries

http : //www . ncbi . nlm . nih . gov/pubmed/8447863

It is a slam dunk Australia's suicide rate is substantially up, with the rise starting in about 1998, about the same time as the statistical undercount was created by the changes in probative burdens created by the Australian Health ministry – as noted in dozens of peer reviewed papers on the substantial undercount

Jul 29, 2016
This is the sort of junk science study which led Congress to defund so called gun violence studies.

Suicide is a medical issue, not a "gun violence" issue, any more than suicide by hanging is a "rope violence" issue, or suicide by poisoning is a "poisoning violence issue. That the researchers refer to it as a violence issue belies their prejudice and lack of objectivity.

The design of the study is fatally flawed and does not account for researcher bias. They did not do primary research. They merely reviewed other studies and, in their own words:

"The researchers extrapolated from gun control measures implemented elsewhere in considering what might be possible and effective in preventing firearm suicides in the U.S."

Their proposed solutions to reduce suicide by firearms have actually been discredited many times and don't make much sense. For example, how is smart gun technology going to prevent an owner from using a gun to commit suicide?

Jul 29, 2016
"Suicide is painless" - Johnny Mandel

Aug 31, 2016
Murder and suicide rate dropped after gun law reform in Australia and while there was increase in non-gun related deaths it was much smaller than gun related. The rate of drop before and after the reform was about the same but there was a big step in down in the rate right when reform took hold. Giving up one's gun was and is entirely voluntary...nobody actually checked. Here is an American evaluation of Australian gun law reform:

Also of note is that suicide rate is much higher in country areas where there are guns available than in city areas where guns are all but unknown. Hand guns are very rare among the ordinary Australian public, but then we don't need them for protection, after all, gun toting Americans are half a world away...

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