WHAT DIFFERENCE COULD A GUN LAW MAKE?

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While suicide has rarely been the basis for public support of the passage

of specific gun laws, suicide prevention may be the unintended by-product

of such laws. For example, federal ownership standards that have been set

by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act might reduce the risk of

gun suicide among several high-risk groups, including persons with a history

of violent behavior, substance abuse, and severe mental disorder. Gun

storage laws might reduce the risk of suicide among children and adolescents;

gun buy-backs might reduce the stock of infrequently used guns that

might be used for suicide, and cooling off periods could reduce the use of

guns in suicides motivated by transient suicidal states. But gun policies

could also increase the risk of suicide. For example, mental health advocates

have opposed the creation of registries of persons with a history of

mental illness, arguing that the stigma of appearing in a state-sponsored

registry could lead some persons to refuse needed mental health treatment,

thus increasing rather than decreasing the risk of a lethal outcome.

Tables 7-4, 7-5, and 7-6 summarize studies of the effects of specific gun

laws. Several cross-sectional and time-series studies do report a decline in

firearm suicides in response to gun control legislation, but so far there is

little evidence for an effect on the overall risk of suicide.