Effects of changes in permit-to-purchase handgun laws in Connecticut and Missouri on suicide rates

Prev Med. 2015 Oct:79:43-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.07.013. Epub 2015 Jul 23.


Objective: In 2013, more than 40,000 individuals died from suicide in the United States. Restricting access to lethal means has the potential to prevent suicide, as suicidal thoughts are often transient. Permit-to-purchase (PTP) laws for handguns could potentially reduce suicides by making it more difficult for persons at risk of suicide to purchase a handgun.

Methods: We used a quasi-experimental research design with annual, state-level suicide data to evaluate changes to PTP laws in Connecticut and Missouri. Data were analyzed for 1981-2012. We used synthetic control modeling as the primary method to estimate policy effects. This methodology provided better prediction of pre-PTP-law-change trends in the two states with PTP law changes than econometric models and is thus likely to provide more accurate estimates of policy effects.

Results: The synthetic control model estimated a 15.4% reduction in firearm suicide rates associated with Connecticut's PTP law. Missouri's PTP law repeal was associated with a 16.1% increase in firearm suicide rates. Evidence that PTP laws were associated with non-firearm suicide rates was mixed in Connecticut and negative in Missouri.

Conclusion: The findings are consistent with prior research linking firearm availability to increased risk of suicide and lower suicide risks associated with PTP handgun laws.

Keywords: Evaluation; Firearms; Legislation; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Connecticut
  • Female
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Missouri
  • Models, Statistical
  • Public Policy
  • Risk Factors
  • Suicide / trends*
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Young Adult