Blog | Tuesday, January 21, 2014

QD: News Every Day--Guns associated with 3 times suicide risk, 2 times homicide risk

Having access to a gun in the home increases the inhabitants’ risk of suicide by more than 3 times, and of being a victim of homicide by nearly 2 times, according to an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 published studies comparing the odds of being a victim of suicide or homicide between persons with and without access to firearms. All but 1 of the 15 studies reviewed reported significantly increased odds of suicide (pooled OR, 3.24 (95% CI, 2.41 to 4.40; range, 1.38 to 10.38) with substantial heterogeneity (I2=89%; τ=0.45). Homicide was also associated with firearm access (pooled OR, 1.94; CI, 1.44 to 2.93; range, 1.41 to 2.70) with substantial heterogeneity (I2=66%; τ=0.21)

Researchers were concerned only with the individual effects of firearm accessibility, so they included only studies with individual-level data and excluded those with population-level data. For example, population-level data on household gun ownership may not reflect the accessibility of guns to a specific suicide or homicide victim, while individual-level data would.

But the author of an accompanying editorial said that the researchers’ estimations are far too conservative and that exclusion of population-level data could display an equally misleading bias. The editorialist cited population-based studies showing that places with higher levels of household gun ownership are associated with higher rates of firearm-related and overall suicide, and added that there was no other association between gun ownership levels and suicide other than guns in the home.

The editorial stated, “… for most families, bringing a gun into the home substantially increases the risk for suicide for all family members and the risk for women being murdered in the home. Evidence not included in their review also indicates that a gun in the home increases the risk for homicide victimization for others in society. This increased risk may be due to someone in the family shooting others (for example, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting) or the gun being stolen and used by criminals. Obtaining a firearm not only endangers those living in the home but also imposes substantial costs on the community.”