PUBLIC HEALTH
January 31, 2014

At Home with A Gun

Suicide and homicide are 3 to 4 times more likely when there is a gun in the home.

Shootings at malls, on college campuses, and in schools seem to have become more frequent. They certainly have been much in the news.

What's the best way to prevent such tragedies? Gun control remains an ongoing debate, but a new study suggests that simply having a gun in your home, whether registered or not, raises the risk that it will be used for a homicide or suicide to an unacceptable level.

Men who had access to a gun were almost four times more likely to commit suicide compared to those who did not; and women were almost three times more likely to be victims of homicide when guns were available.

The researchers from the University of California at San Francisco found that people who have access to firearms are three times more likely to commit suicide and almost twice as likely to become a homicide victim, compared to those who do not have access.

This is particularly true for men. Men who had access to a gun were almost four times more likely to commit suicide compared to those who did not; and women were almost three times more likely to be victims of homicide when guns were available.

“Our analysis shows that having access to firearms is a significant risk factor for men committing suicide and for women being victims of homicide,” Andrew Anglemyer, lead author on the study and an expert in data analytics at UCSF, said in a statement.

Anglemyer, a U.S. Army veteran, added that since most homicide victims know their assailants, the higher risk for women strongly indicates domestic violence as a big factor in the rate of female homicides.

David Hemenway, author of an editorial accompanying the study and a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, told TheDoctor, “What this study suggests is that there is nothing jumping out to indicate that having a gun in your home is protective.” He added, “I think the Surgeon General should come out and say, ‘This is one area where we really know something, and that is a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide,’”

The researchers analyzed data from 15 studies comparing the odds of being a victim of suicide or homicide between two groups of people — those with and without access to guns. Of these 15 studies, 13 were done in the U.S., where the rate of gun ownership is the highest in the world, and where guns kill an estimated 31,000 people per year.

The study and editorial are published online in Annals of Internal Medicine.
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