Buying a Handgun Significantly Increases Risk of Suicide
He says that similar examples can be seen in New York, where handguns have
always been tightly controlled and where handgun suicides are low, or in
Washington, D.C., where handgun controls were instituted in the 1970s. "Gun
suicide went down 25% and suicide by other methods didn't go up," he
Wintemute also says other suicide methods are unlikely to replace gun
suicide because "guns are easier than other methods. It is easier to get a
gun than it is to get pharmaceuticals in lethal quantities. ... It takes skill
to hang one's self, using a gun is over quicker, a jumper may have time to
contemplate. The fact is that about 10% of suicide attempts with
pharmaceuticals are fatal; when you use a firearm more than 90% are fatal. It
just reverses the ratio."
In an editorial accompanying the article, Mark L. Rosenberg MD, MPP, of the
Collaborative Center for Child Well-being in Decatur, Georgia; James A. Mercy,
PhD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin at Milwaukee; and Lloyd B. Potter,
PhD, MPH, of the CDC, write that it is "no longer a question of whether we
should apply science to the problem of firearm-related injuries, but how we
should do so in the effort to prevent such injuries."
Robert K. Musil, PhD, executive director of Physician for Social
Responsibility (PSR), says PSR has "known for a long time that in terms of
gun violence the largest number of deaths are from suicide by firearm, not
homicide." Musil tells WebMD that even in 1993, when death from guns used
in crime hit an all time high, the number of deaths from gun suicide were
PSR is supporting a new national gun buy back bill scheduled expected to be
introduced Wednesday by Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin.
Musil says that PSR wants "the gun debate framed as a public health
issue, not as a crime issue. In our view, keeping guns out of homes is a key
element in reducing the risk of gun death or injury."
PSR recently supported a gun buy back program in Washington, D.C., that
Musil says resulted in 3,000 guns being turned in. "We hope to replicate
this program nationally." He says that guns acquired in the PSR-sponsored
buy back were destroyed and persons who turned in guns were given coupons for
services, not money. "An early criticism of gun buy backs was that the
money was used to buy new weapons."
- In terms of gun violence, suicide, not homicide, is the leading cause of
- During the first year of handgun ownership, suicide is the leading cause of
death, an association that is even more pronounced in women.