When safe firearm storage isn't enough: Examining risk profiles among firearm suicide decedents

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Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior


Introduction: Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, and firearms are the most frequently used suicide method. Research suggests risk for firearm suicide increases with greater access to firearms (e.g., storing loaded or unlocked). Although safe firearm storage is promoted as a means of risk reduction, no studies have explored factors differentiating firearm suicide decedents who stored firearms safely vs. those who stored unsafely prior to death. Methods: Utilizing data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, the current study aimed to determine which factors distinguish firearm suicide decedents who stored firearms safely vs. those who stored unsafely. The current sample included decedents for whom data were available on whether the firearm used in the suicide was stored loaded or unloaded (n = 4269) and unlocked or locked (n = 6273) prior to their death. Results: Results revealed using a long gun in the suicide (as opposed to a handgun) was associated with five times greater odds of storing unloaded prior to death, suggesting this safe firearm storage practice alone does not mitigate risk among all long gun owners. Conclusion: These findings indicate a need to increase suicide prevention efforts within the long gun owning community.

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