The Association Between State Laws Regulating Handgun Ownership and Statewide Suicide Rates

Am J Public Health. 2015 Oct;105(10):2059-67. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302465. Epub 2015 Apr 16.


Objectives: We examined the impact of 3 state laws (permit to purchase a handgun, registration of handguns, license to own a handgun) on suicide rates.

Methods: We used 2010 data from publicly available databases and state legislatures to assess the relationships between our predictors and outcomes.

Results: Results largely indicated that states with any of these laws in place exhibited lower overall suicide rates and suicide by firearms rates and that a smaller proportion of suicides in such states resulted from firearms. Furthermore, results indicated that laws requiring registration and license had significant indirect effects through the proportion of suicides resulting from firearms. The latter results imply that such laws are associated with fewer suicide attempts overall, a tendency for those who attempt to use less-lethal means, or both. Exploratory longitudinal analyses indicated a decrease in overall suicide rates immediately following implementation of laws requiring a license to own a handgun.

Conclusions: The results are thus supportive of the potential of handgun legislation to have an impact on suicide rates.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Licensure / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Male
  • Ownership / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • State Government*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology