The American Journal Public Health has published a new study that connects thorough gun laws with a lower rates of suicide. The study examined waiting periods, universal background checks, gun locks, and open carrying regulations for impact on suicide rates.
In 11 states with waiting periods, the longer the waiting period, the lower the gun suicide rate. Compared with states without the waiting periods, background checks were associated with a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, gun locks with a 68 percent lower rate, and restrictions on open carrying a 42 percent lower rate, the New York Times reported.
“When you make a highly lethal method of suicide harder to access, you’re going to lower the suicide rate,” said the lead author of the study, an assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi, Michael D. Anestis. “We need to emphasize evidence-based gun safety among gun owners.”
Background checks are the most effective way to restrict access to firearms. An estimated 40 percent of gun sales in the United States are completed without background checks. “One of the conclusions of the study is consistent with a key observation Everytown made a year ago: that background check laws are associated with reduced rates of firearm injury and death including suicides,” said Ted Alcorn, Research Director, Everytown for Gun Safety. “Everytown’s research shows that in states with background check requirements, people are safer: controlling for population, there are 48 percent fewer gun suicides in states that require background checks for private handgun sales than in states that do not.”
In 2013 alone, 21,2175 people killed themselves with a firearm. That makes up 51 percent of all suicides from that year.
Ladd Everitt, the Communications Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, was not surprised by the results. “The link between strong gun laws and less suicide makes sense,” he said. “We know that suicide attempts with firearms are highly lethal.”
Suicides involving firearms are fatal 85 percent of the time, compared with less than 3 percent for pills, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “If someone in the home is contemplating suicide doesn’t have access to a firearm, it’s likely that they will be attempting with less lethal means,” said Everitt. “Ninety percent of people who survive an initial suicide attempt will not go on to complete another attempt. Being able to intervene after a potential first attempt is very important,” Everitt said.