Biting the Bullet: Firearm Ownership in Persons with Dementia. A Registry-Based Observational Study

J Alzheimers Dis. 2021;81(1):179-188. doi: 10.3233/JAD-201365.


Background: In Sweden, 2,296,000 firearms were legally owned by private persons in 2017 and there were 150,000 persons living with a dementia diagnosis. A proportion of these persons owning a firearm may pose safety concerns.

Objective: The aim was to describe firearm ownership in persons with dementia in Sweden and examine which characteristics are explaining physicians' decision to report a person to the police as unsuitable to possess a firearm.

Methods: This was a registry-based observational study. 65,717 persons with dementia registered in the Swedish Dementia Registry were included in the study. Logistic regression was used to evaluate which of the persons' characteristics were most important in predicting the likelihood of being reported as unsuitable to possess a firearm. Relative importance of predictors was quantified using standardized coefficients (SC) and dominance analysis (DA).

Results: Out of 53,384 persons with dementia, 1,823 owned a firearm and 419 were reported to the police as unsuitable owners. Firearm owners were predominantly younger, males, living alone, and without assistance of homecare. The most important predictors of being reported to the police were: living with another person (SC = 0.23), frontotemporal dementia (SC = 0.18), antipsychotics prescription (SC = 0.18), being diagnosed in a memory/cognitive clinic (SC = -0.27), female gender (SC = 0.18), mild (SC = -0.25) and moderate (SC = -0.21) dementia, and hypnotics prescription (SC = 0.17).

Conclusion: Firearm owners with dementia were mostly younger males who were still living more independent lives. The decision to remove a weapon was not solely based on a diagnosis of dementia but a combination of factors was considered.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia; dementia; firearm; frontotemporal; neuropsychiatric symptoms; risk assessment; vascular; violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dementia*
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ownership*
  • Registries
  • Safety*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden