Intended for healthcare professionals


Access to firearms and adolescent suicide

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 22 July 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2829

Linked Research

State handgun purchase age minimums in the US and adolescent suicide rates

  1. Ann John, professor1,
  2. Deborah Azrael, associate director2,
  3. Matthew Miller, professor3
  1. 1Swansea University Medical School, Singleton Campus, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
  2. 2Harvard Injury Control Research Center, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
  3. 3Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: A John A.john{at}

Age limits on purchasing won’t protect the many young people already living with firearms

Policies that effectively reduce access to lethal means of suicide save lives.1 We know, for example, that a ban on the most highly toxic pesticides in Sri Lanka was associated with noticeably lower overall suicide rates in the 1990s because studies observed a post-ban decline in pesticide related and overall suicide rates consistent with substantial declines in availability.23 The story of coal gas in the UK similarly illustrates the promise of reducing exposure to highly lethal means of suicide: carbon monoxide related (and overall) suicide rates in the UK declined in the 1960s as more and more households switched from coal gas to detoxified gas.45

The linked study by Raifman and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.m2436) assesses the impact of means restriction by looking at how suicide rates change in relation to changes in laws governing the minimum age at which adolescents in the US can legally buy handguns from …

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