Suicide, guns, and buyback programs: An epidemiologic analysis of firearm-related deaths in Connecticut

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Gun buyback programs aim to remove unwanted firearms from the community with the goal of preventing firearm injury and death. Buyback programs are held in many communities, but evidence demonstrating their effectiveness is lacking. The purpose of this study is to compare firearms collected at buyback events to crime guns and firearms used in homicides and suicides.

METHODS

Detailed firearm and case data were obtained from the Hartford Police Department and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner from January through December of 2015. Information was reviewed for guns collected at buyback events, crime guns confiscated by police, and for weapons associated with firearm fatalities. Detailed firearm data included type, manufacturer, model, and caliber (small, ≤ 0.32 caliber; medium, 0.357 caliber to 9 mm; large, ≥ 0.40 caliber). χ2 analyses were used for comparisons between groups.

RESULTS

In 2015, 224 crime guns were seized by the Hartford Police, 169 guns were collected at four community buyback events, and there were 187 firearm-related deaths statewide (105 suicides, 81 homicides, 1 legal intervention). Comparisons between buyback, crime, and fatality-related firearms are shown in the table below. Medium caliber handguns account for the majority of crime guns and fatalities, and buyback programs collected smaller caliber handguns. The demographics of individuals who turn in guns at buyback events and commit suicide are similar: age (buyback, 63 ± 11; suicide, 52 ± 18; homicide, 34 ± 12 years), sex (buyback, 81%; suicide, 91%; homicide, 84% men), and race (buyback, 80%; suicide, 97%; homicide, 47% white).

CONCLUSION

Handguns account for the majority of crime guns and firearm-related fatalities in Connecticut. Buyback programs are both an opportunity to remove unwanted handguns from the community and to remove firearms from the homes of individuals at increased risk of suicide.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Epidemiologic/therapeutic study, level IV.

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