WASHINGTON – The evidence linking firearm access and suicide completion is largely ignored in current U.S. discussions on guns, Michael D. Anestis, PhD, said at the annual conference of the American Association of Suicidology.
“Only a tiny fraction of media discussions on gun deaths involve suicide. We must make a concerted and sustained effort to change this conversation,” said, a clinical psychologist at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. When the relationship between firearms and suicide is discussed, it often is as a “footnote” and includes a lot of inaccurate information.
Dr. Anestis reviewed results from a survey he and his associates ran in 2017 that documented these inaccurate beliefs regarding firearms and suicide. The researchers had 300 American adults who owned at least one firearm complete a questionnaire on their practices for firearm storage and their beliefs on the connections between firearm storage and suicide risk. The results showed a clear link between unsafe firearm storage and reduced belief of a link between firearm access and suicide risk (
During the conference, Dr. Anestis and his associates reported additional, as-yet unpublished findings that further detailed risks for suicide among gun owners. A survey of 100 adults from the Hattiesburg area showed that greater experience firing a gun linked with “factors thought to facilitate the transition from suicidal desire to suicidal behavior. We need to consider an individual’s experience and comfort with firearms, not just ownership and storage,” Dr. Anestis said.
. But additional research from his group showed that another route to acquiring “capability” for suicide, such as fearlessness of death, can occur through exposure to violent video games.
Dr. Anestis had no disclosures.