Firearm deaths in the home due to suicide and criminal homicide are more common than self-defense homicide

Firearm deaths in the home due to suicide and criminal homicide are more common than self-defense homicide

By: HIPRC Date: April 13th, 2020

Availability of firearms at home have been repeatedly associated with an increased risk of suicide and homicides inside the home.

In a new study, researchers at UW Medicine’s Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center’s Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program (HIPRC) updated a previous study looking at the risk of firearm-related suicide, homicide, and unintentional deaths in the home compared to self-defense homicides (from 1978 to 1983). HIPRC researchers updated these results based on firearm deaths in King County from 2011 to 2018. This study was published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Using data from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Washington State Homicide Investigation Tracking System, HIPRC looked at population numbers of firearm deaths in King County, Washington from 2011-2018.

“We found that firearm-related deaths in the home are still more frequently the result of suicide or criminal homicide, rather than self-defense homicide,” said lead author Dr. Elissa Butler, HIPRC surgery postdoctoral fellow.

In the 1978 to ’83 study, for every self-protection homicide involving a firearm kept in the home there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 suicides involving firearms.

In this new study, they found similar results. There were 647 firearm deaths that occurred in homes, of which 82 percent were suicide, 15 percent were homicide, and 2 percent were unintentional deaths. For every firearm-related self-defense homicide in the home there were 0.9 unintentional deaths, 7.3 criminal homicides, and 44.1 suicides.

The findings in this study suggest that potential benefits of firearm ownership for personal protection need to be weighed against the risk of loss of life from suicide and criminal homicide.

Work on the project was funded by training grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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