Firearms are used in approximately half of all youth suicides. Many
state and federal laws include age-specific restrictions on the purchase,
possession, or storage of firearms; however, the association between these
laws and suicides among youth has not been carefully examined.
To evaluate the association between youth-focused firearm laws and suicides
Design, Setting, and Participants
Quasi-experimental design with annual state-level data on suicide rates
among US youth aged 14 through 20 years, for the period 1976-2001. Negative
binomial regression models were used to estimate the association between state
and federal youth-focused firearm laws mandating a minimum age for the purchase
or possession of handguns and state child access prevention (CAP) laws requiring
safe storage of firearms on suicide rates among youth.
Main Outcome Measures
Association between youth-focused state and federal firearm laws and
rates of firearm, nonfirearm, and total suicides among US youth aged 14 to
17 and 18 through 20 years.
There were 63 954 suicides among youth aged 14 through 20 years
during the 1976-2001 study period, 39 655 (62%) of which were committed
with firearms. Minimum purchase-age and possession-age laws were not associated
with statistically significant reductions in suicide rates among youth aged
14 through 20 years. State CAP laws were associated with an 8.3% decrease
(rate ratio [RR], 0.92; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.86-0.98) in suicide
rates among 14- to 17-year-olds. The annual rate of suicide in this age group
in states with CAP laws was 5.97 per 100 000 population rather than the
projected 6.51. This association was also statistically significant for firearm
suicides (RR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.83-0.96) but not for nonfirearm suicides (RR,
1.00; 95% CI, 0.91-1.10). CAP laws were also associated with a significant
reduction in suicides among youth aged 18 through 20 years (RR, 0.89; 95%
CI, 0.85-0.93); however, the association was similar for firearm suicides
(RR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.82-0.92) and nonfirearm suicides (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.85-0.98).
There is evidence that CAP laws are associated with a modest reduction
in suicide rates among youth aged 14 to 17 years. As currently implemented,
minimum age restrictions for the purchase and possession of firearms do not
appear to reduce overall rates of suicide among youth.