Firearm suicides and homicides in the United States: regional variations and patterns of gun ownership.Soc Sci Med 1998; 46(9):1227-33SS
Among industrialized countries, the United States has the highest rates of firearm suicide and homicide, as well as the highest rate of gun ownership. The present study compares the differential impact of gun availability on firearm suicides and homicides in the U.S. Using data from the NCHS Mortality Detail Files (1989-1991), the 1990 U.S. census population estimates, and the General Social Surveys (1989-1991) for nine geographic divisions, we computed rates of firearm and non-firearm suicides and homicides as well as rates of gun ownership for four gender-race groups. We tested the strength of the associations between gun availability and firearm suicide and homicide rates by computing the Spearman correlation coefficients. To help elucidate the role of method substitution, we conducted similar analyses on non-firearm suicide and homicide. The results show that gun ownership has a stronger impact on firearm suicides than homicides. These findings held up after stratifying by gender and race. The study suggests that reducing the aggregate level of gun availability may decrease the risk of firearm-related deaths.