Handgun Legislation and Changes in Statewide Overall Suicide Rates

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine the extent to which 4 laws regulating handgun ownership were associated with statewide suicide rate changes.

Methods

To test between-group differences in statewide suicide rate changes between 2013 and 2014 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with and without specific laws, we ran analyses of covariance.

Results

We found significant differences in suicide rate changes from 2013 to 2014 in states with mandatory waiting periods and universal background checks relative to states without such laws. States with both laws differed significantly from those with neither. No significant differences in rate changes were noted for open carry restrictions or gun lock requirements.

Conclusions

Some state laws regulating aspects of handgun acquisition may be associated with lower statewide suicide rates. Laws regulating handgun storage and carrying practices may have a smaller effect, highlighting that legislation is likely most useful when its focus is on preventing gun ownership rather than regulating use and storage of guns already acquired.

Public Health Implications

The findings add to the increasing evidence in support of a public health approach to the prevention of suicide via firearms, focusing on waiting periods and background checks.

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