Firearms Availability Among High-School Age Youth With Recent Depression or Suicidality

Pediatrics. 2023 Jun 1;151(6):e2022059532. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-059532.


Background and objectives: Limiting firearm access is essential to decreasing teen suicide. Previous efforts have focused on household firearms; however, less is known about firearm access and possession among teens at increased suicide risk. Our objective was to estimate prevalence of firearm possession and access among high school-aged teens with recent depression and/or lifetime history of suicidality (DLHS).

Methods: We conducted a probability-based, cross-sectional Web survey of 1914 parent-teen dyads between June 24, 2020, and July 22, 2020, with data weighted to generate a nationally representative sample of US teenagers (aged 14-18). Logistic regression analyses examined the difference between teens with and without DLHS for: (1) personal firearm possession, (2) perceived firearm access, and (3) method of firearm attainment.

Results: Among high school-aged teens, 22.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 19.4-25.8) reported DLHS, 11.5% (95% CI, 8.7-14.3) reported personal firearm possession, and 44.2% (95% CI, 40.2-48.2) endorsed firearm access. Teens experiencing DLHS had increased perceived access (adjusted odds ratio, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.07-2.28) compared with non-DLHS peers. There was no association between DLHS and personal firearm possession (adjusted odds ratio, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.47-2.00). Among teens reporting firearm possession, those with DLHS were more likely to have acquired it by buying/trading for it (odds ratio, 5.66; 95% CI, 1.17-27.37) and less likely receiving it as a gift (odds ratio, 0.06; 95% CI, 0.01-0.36).

Conclusions: High school-aged teens experiencing DLHS have higher perceived firearm access compared with lower-risk peers. Providers should speak directly to high school-aged teens at increased suicide risk about firearm access, in addition to counseling parents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Suicide*