Suicide Rates and State Laws Regulating Access and Exposure to Handguns

Am J Public Health. 2015 Oct;105(10):2049-58. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302753. Epub 2015 Aug 13.


Objectives: Using previous research, we examined the impact of 4 handgun laws (waiting periods, universal background checks, gun locks, and open carrying regulations) on suicide rates.

Methods: We used publicly available databases to collect information on statewide laws, suicide rates, and demographic characteristics for 2013.

Results: Each law was associated with significantly lower firearm suicide rates and the proportion of suicides resulting from firearms. In addition, each law, except for that which required a waiting period, was associated with a lower overall suicide rate. Follow-up analyses showed a significant indirect effect on overall suicide rates through the proportion of suicides by firearms, indicating that the reduced overall suicide rate was attributable to fewer suicide attempts, fewer handguns in the home, suicide attempts using less lethal means, or a combination of these factors. States that implemented any of these laws saw a decreased suicide rate in subsequent years, whereas the only state that repealed 1 of these laws saw an increased suicide rate.

Conclusions: Our results were supportive of a potentially vital role in suicide prevention for state legislation that limits access and exposure to handguns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Firearms / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • United States / epidemiology