Now it’s official — having access to a gun significantly increases the risk of homicide and suicide.
Guns are more prevalent in the United States than any other country and cause more than 31,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco reviewed previous studies of gun-related deaths and found significantly increased odds of suicide and homicide victimization associated with access to a firearm in the home, according to their report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Andrew Anglemyer, PhD, MPH and colleagues reviewed 15 published studies comparing the odds of being a victim of suicide or homicide between persons with and without access to firearms. All but one of the 15 studies reviewed reported significantly increased odds of suicide and homicide victimization associated with firearm access. “To our knowledge,” said Anglemyer, “this is the first systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate the association between firearm accessibility and suicide or homicide victimization.”
“The evidence that a gun in the home increases the risk for suicide is overwhelming”, said David Hemenway, PhD, Harvard School of Public Health, in an accompanying editorial. In fact, Hemenway asserts that the researchers’ estimations are far too conservative and suggests that places with higher levels of household gun ownership could be associated with higher rates of firearm-related and overall suicide.
Inevitably, there will be detractors who claim that guns don’t kill people, but rather, people kill people. Well, the researchers found that “although a public health approach to prevention that entails restriction of access to firearms may lead to violent death by other means, the increased rates of violent death (suicide and homicide) in states with the highest rates of firearm access were attributable more to firearm violence than to non firearm violence.” In other words, more guns equal more death.
“Firearms that are stored loaded or unlocked are more likely to be used than those that are unloaded or locked, and adolescent suicide victims often use an unlocked firearm in the home,” said researchers. Adolescents with intent to commit suicide are seven times more likely to follow through with a gun if a firearm is available in the home.
“Obtaining a firearm not only endangers those living in the home but also imposes substantial costs on the community,” said Hemenway.