Featured Commentary on Firearm Policy and Youth Suicide

Featured Commentary on Firearm Policy and Youth Suicide

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: November 19th, 2020

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children and young adults in the U.S., approximately half involving firearms.

In a new commentary posted in JAMA Network Open November 4th, researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC) and the Department of Epidemiology of the University of Washington School of Public Health look at recent policy changes in Missouri and its impact.

Researchers looked at the rate of suicide by firearms among individuals aged 14 to 24 years. Rates steadily increased from 4.3 per 100 000 in 2009 to 6.6 per 100 000 in 2018. During this time two changes in firearm policies took place in Missouri. The first change was in the legal age to carry a concealed carry permit. It was lowered, most recently in 2014 from 21 years to 19 years. The second change was with the handgun permit-to-purchase (PTP) law being repealed.

These findings highlight the importance of considering the mechanisms by which firearm policies are intended to exert an effect on firearm injury and violence. The findings also indicate reduced access to firearms could potentially save lives. Repealing the PTP law and reducing the minimum age to obtain a conceal weapon can theoretically increase the access to firearms and in turn also increase the risk of firearm suicides among certain age groups of young adults.

Authors for this commentary include, Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program (FIPRP) Co-Director Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, MPH, PhD and FIPRP staff members Miriam J. Haviland, MSPH, PhD and Alice M. Ellyson, MS, PhD.

For more on this piece, visit JAMA Network Open.