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Firearm suicides and homicides in the United States: regional variations and patterns of gun ownership


  • Kaplan, Mark S.
  • Geling, Olga


Among industrialized countries, the United States has the highest rates of firearm suicide and homicide, as well as the highest rate of gun ownership. The present study compares the differential impact of gun availability on firearm suicides and homicides in the U.S. Using data from the NCHS Mortality Detail Files (1989-1991), the 1990 U.S. census population estimates, and the General Social Surveys (1989-1991) for nine geographic divisions, we computed rates of firearm and non-firearm suicides and homicides as well as rates of gun ownership for four gender-race groups. We tested the strength of the associations between gun availability and firearm suicide and homicide rates by computing the Spearman correlation coefficients. To help elucidate the role of method substitution, we conducted similar analyses on non-firearm suicide and homicide. The results show that gun ownership has a stronger impact on firearm suicides than homicides. These findings held up after stratifying by gender and race. The study suggests that reducing the aggregate level of gun availability may decrease the risk of firearm-related deaths.

Suggested Citation

  • Kaplan, Mark S. & Geling, Olga, 1998. "Firearm suicides and homicides in the United States: regional variations and patterns of gun ownership," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 46(9), pages 1227-1233, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:46:y:1998:i:9:p:1227-1233

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    Cited by:

    1. Vladimir Shkolnikov & Evgeny Andreev & Zhen Zhang & James Oeppen & James Vaupel, 2011. "Losses of Expected Lifetime in the United States and Other Developed Countries: Methods and Empirical Analyses," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(1), pages 211-239, February.
    2. Christoph Koenig & David Schindler, 2018. "Dynamics in Gun Ownership and Crime - Evidence from the Aftermath of Sandy Hook," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 18/694, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    3. 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.
    4. Vladimir M. Shkolnikov & Evgueni M. Andreev & Zhen Zhang & James E. Oeppen & James W. Vaupel, 2009. "Losses of expected lifetime in the US and other developed countries: methods and empirical analyses," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2009-042, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    5. Wolfgang Stroebe, 2014. "Firearm possession and violent death: A critical review," CREMA Working Paper Series 2014-07, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    6. Miller, Matthew & Hemenway, David & Azrael, Deborah, 2007. "State-level homicide victimization rates in the US in relation to survey measures of household firearm ownership, 2001-2003," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(3), pages 656-664, February.
    7. 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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