Never trusting uncle again and other stories . . .

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5976 (Published 09 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5976

“On an average day in the United States, more than 100 Americans die by suicide; half of these suicides involve the use of firearms.” You can hear the National Rifle Association’s response already: don’t blame the guns, these guys would kill themselves anyway. The opening quotation is from a Harvard paper that explores the association between gun ownership in the US and suicide (American Journal of Epidemiology 2013;178:946-55, doi:10.1093/aje/kwt197). This highly sophisticated analysis concludes that firearm ownership rates, independent of underlying rates of suicidal behaviour, largely determine variations in suicide mortality across the 50 states. It does find that gun ownership itself is not a predictor of suicidality; but if you have a gun, you are more likely to succeed in killing yourself. The same applies to killing other people.

For more than a century, medical microbiology laboratories have been places full of microscopes, bottles of stains and reagents, and the sweet musty smell of bacteria growing on …

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