Firearms account for the majority of suicide deaths in the United States military and access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide. Prior research has shown service members tend to store firearms unsafely, with some research indicating this is particularly true among those with elevated suicide risk. Existing research has focused on individuals at known risk for suicide; however, those who die by suicide using a firearm are prone to avoiding mental healthcare and underreporting suicidal ideation, thereby necessitating an understanding of this phenomenon among firearm owners outside of the mental healthcare system. The present study examined firearm storage and suicide risk in a large nonclinical sample of service members (total sample n = 953; firearm owning sample = 473). Lifetime suicidal ideation, current depressive symptoms, and perceived likelihood of making a future suicide attempt were associated with unsafe firearm storage. In contrast, lifetime suicidal ideation was not associated with a greater likelihood to own firearms. These findings suggest those at risk of suicide are more likely to store firearms unsafely, which increases ease of access to firearms. These findings reiterate the importance of means safety as a suicide prevention strategy.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.