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Firearms and Suicide in the Northeast

Miller, Matthew MD, MPH, ScD; Hemenway, David PhD; Azrael, Deborah MS, PhD

Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care:
Original Articles

Background: A central question in suicide research is whether firearm availability increases the overall number of suicides rather than the proportion of suicides from guns.

Methods: Seven state health departments supplied mortality and hospital discharge data for all suicides and nonfatal hospitalized suicide attempts between 1996 and 2000. Firearm prevalence measures came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey Surveillance. Pearson correlation coefficients and associated χ2 statistics were used to quantify the relation between firearm prevalence and rates of suicide; ordinary least squares regression was used to explore whether the relation could be explained by differences across states in attempt rates or method-specific case fatality rates.

Results: Firearm prevalence was positively related to the suicide rate, even after controlling for rates of attempted suicide, and could not be accounted for by differences in method-specific case fatality rates.

Conclusion: When it comes to suicide, the availability of household firearms matters—a lot.

Author Information

From the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.

Submitted for publication February 21, 2003.

Accepted for publication August 11, 2003.

Address for reprints: Matthew Miller, MD, ScD, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115; email:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.