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Suicide and increased availability of handguns in the United States


  • Clarke, Ronald V.
  • Jones, Peter R.


During the 25 years between 1959 and 1984, the suicide rate in the United States increased from 10.5/100,000 to 12.4/100,000. The increase was confined to those suicides using a firearm, which had reached 58.5% of the total by the end of the period. At the same time, there was a marked increase in the household ownership of handguns (but not of shotguns and rifles). The present study investigates whether the increase in suicide might be due to the increase in the ownership of handguns. Regression analyses showed a strong relationship between handgun ownership and the rate of gun suicides, but not between handgun ownership and the overall rate of suicide. These results support the hypothesis that the rise in handguns has led to an increase in gun suicides, but, they do not permit a choice between two further competing hypotheses: (i) that more people are now committing suicide because there are more handguns available or, (ii) that people who would otherwise have killed themselves in some different way are now using guns. Because of the potential implications for prevention, further study of these issues is needed.

Suggested Citation

  • Clarke, Ronald V. & Jones, Peter R., 1989. "Suicide and increased availability of handguns in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 28(8), pages 805-809, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:28:y:1989:i:8:p:805-809

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    Cited by:

    1. Katherine Hempstead & Antonio Rodríguez, 2009. "Gun control and suicide: The impact of state firearm regulations, 1995–2004," Development Research Working Paper Series 17/2009, Institute for Advanced Development Studies.
    2. Hempstead, Dr. Katherine & Andres, Dr. Antonio Rodriguez, 2009. "Gun control and suicide: The impact of state firearm regulations, 1995-2004," MPRA Paper 20728, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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