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Gun prevalence and suicide


  • Balestra, Simone


In light of the ongoing debate over tighter firearm regulations, this paper considers the relationship between gun prevalence and suicide. I exploit a reform in Switzerland that reduced the prevalence of military-issued guns in private households. In Switzerland, military service is compulsory for men, and military-issued guns account for nearly half of the total number of firearms available. The results show that the firearm suicide rate decreases by 9% for a reduction in gun prevalence of 1000 guns per 100,000 inhabitants. The elasticity of gun suicides with respect to firearm prevalence is +0.48, but converges towards zero for low levels of gun prevalence. The overall suicide rate is negatively and significantly related to firearm prevalence, which indicates that non-gun methods of suicide are not perfect replacements for firearms.

Suggested Citation

  • Balestra, Simone, 2018. "Gun prevalence and suicide," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 163-177.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:61:y:2018:i:c:p:163-177
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2018.08.003

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    I12; I18; J18; K32; Gun prevalence; Firearm suicide; Suicide rate; Gun policy;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law


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