Purpose: To determine whether, compared with age- and sex-matched controls who did not commit suicide, adolescents who committed suicide by firearms were more likely to have had household access to firearms (after adjusting for significant risk factors for adolescent suicide).
Methods: A case-control study design was used; case subjects were Colorado adolescents who committed suicide between 1991 and 1993; controls were sex- and age-matched adolescents who were randomly selected from the same school the subjects had attended. Interviews were conducted with the parent or guardian of cases and controls.
Results: Of the 36 case subjects in this study, 67% committed suicide using a gun obtained from their home. Adolescent suicide victims who committed suicide by firearms were significantly more likely to have a firearm in their home (72%) than age- and sex-matched community controls (50%), after adjusting for significant risk factors. Conduct disorder and previous mental health treatment were also found to be independent risk factors for adolescent firearm suicide.
Conclusions: Two types of public health interventions to prevent adolescent firearm suicides are likely to be successful: (a) limiting household access to firearms, and (b) identifying adolescents at high risk of firearm suicide.