This study has 3 objectives: to examine the association between state-level firearm ownership and suicide among adolescents of high school age; to compare the strength of the firearm ownership−suicide association among adolescents relative to adults; and to evaluate the relationship between 11 child access prevention (CAP) laws and suicide.
Using an ecological time series cross-sectional design, we modeled suicide rates from January 1, 1991, to December 31, 2017, as a function of household firearm ownership and states’ implementation of CAP provisions using fixed effect negative binomial models.
There were 37,652 suicides among adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18 years during the study period, and more than half of all suicides (51.5%, n = 19,402) involved firearms. Each 10 percentage-point increase in states’ firearm ownership was associated with a 39.3% (35.1%−43.5%) increase in firearm suicide, which in turn contributed a 6.8% (2.5%−11.1%) increase in all-cause suicide. The association between firearm ownership and suicide was approximately 2 times stronger among adolescents relative to adults. Policies mandating locks and safe storage were associated with a 13.1% (2.7%−22.3%) reduction in adolescent firearm suicide and an unexplained 8.7% (1.2%−15.7%) reduction in non-firearm suicide. CAP provisions were associated with reduced firearm suicide across the lifespan, but effects were stronger among adolescents.
There is an increased risk of adolescent suicide associated with household firearm ownership, and safe storage provisions are associated with decreased adolescent firearm suicide.