Clinical Edge

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Gun ownership practices linked to soldier suicide risk

Key clinical point: Gun ownership and storage practices among U.S. Army soldiers are associated with risk of suicide.

Major finding: U.S. soldiers who keep a loaded gun at home with ammunition and carry in public have fourfold higher odds of suicide.

Study details: Case-control study of 135 Army soldier suicides, 137 matched controls, and 118 soldiers who had experienced suicidal ideation.

Disclosures: The study was supported by the U.S. Department of the Army, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, and National Institute of Mental Health. One author declared grants from the Military Suicide Research Consortium outside the submitted work, and one author declared support, consultancies, and advisory board positions with the pharmaceutical industry, and co-ownership of a mental health market research firm. No other conflicts of interest were declared.


Dempsey CL et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Jun 7. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.5383.


These findings add to the growing body of evidence that firearm-related behaviors, beyond just gun ownership, may influence suicide risk, and support the most evidence-based and conceptually sound recommendation for suicide prevention, which is to remove the firearm from the home.

There are some limitations to this study. For example, the validity of the “psychological autopsy” approach used in the study has not been determined, and there is also a question mark over the accuracy of family members’ reports about gun ownership and storage practices. Despite this, the study provides support for recommendations for a change in firearm behaviors to reduce the risk of suicide.

Joseph A. Simonetti, MD, MPH, is affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Mental Illness, Research, Education and Clinical Center for Suicide Prevention at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, Aurora, Colo. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, MD, MPH, PhD, is affiliated with the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington, Seattle. Those comments are adapted from an accompanying editorial (JAMA Netw Open. 2019. Jun 7. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.5400). No conflicts of interest were declared.