Homes with Guns Have Higher Suicide Rates

New research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has determined that there is a strong connection between household firearm ownership and suicide rates. The findings are published in the current issue of the Journal of Trauma.

Simply put, “We found that where there are more guns, there are more suicides,” said Matthew Miller, lead author of the study. According to the research, suicide rates among individuals of all ages and both sexes are higher in states where more households have guns. Although only 5 percent of all suicide attempts use guns, a whopping 90 percent of these acts prove to be fatal. By comparison, 75 percent of all suicide attempts use drugs, but a mere 3 percent of those attempts result in the individual’s death. In short, firearms are far more likely to produce a fatal result in a suicide attempt than any other means, making their very presence a dangerous risk factor. As Miller puts it, “people are less likely to die from attempting suicide when they don’t have access to guns in homes.”

Researchers at HSPH controlled for factors of poverty, urbanization, unemployment, drug and alcohol dependence and abuse, and mental illness. They found: “In the 15 states with the highest levels of household gun ownership, twice as many people committed suicide compared with the six states with the lowest levels, even though the population in both groups was about the same.”

“Removing all firearms from one’s home is one of the most effective and straightforward steps that household decision-makers can take to reduce the risk of suicide,” said lead author Miller. “Removing firearms may be especially effective in reducing the risk of suicide among adolescents and other potentially impulsive members of their home. Short of removing all firearms, the next best thing is to make sure that all guns in homes are very securely locked up and stored separately from secured ammunition. In a nation where more than half of all suicides are gun suicides and where more than one in three homes have firearms, one cannot talk about suicide without talking about guns.”

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