Objective: Using data from n = 194 nation-states, Kleck found that firearm availability was only associated with firearm suicide rates, but not total or non-firearm suicides. He thus concluded that while firearm availability influences how people commit suicide, it does not affect total numbers. However, the study contains numerous logical and methodological issues and is at odds with the evidence base. Therefore, I attempt to reproduce the original results.
Method: I reproduce the original study’s methods: ordinary least squares regression, weighted by the square root of the population, with log-transformed suicide rates and three separate firearm availability measures: global estimates from the Small Arms Survey, proportion of suicides committed with firearms, and a European Union survey of firearm ownership. I also test several methodological variations and include U.S. suicide data.
Results: In contrast to Kleck, global analyses with Small Arms Survey data found a significant and positive association between firearm availability and total suicides, as did U.S. analyses. Analyses with other firearm availability measures comported with the original study, finding no association.
Conclusion: The main result in Kleck failed to reproduce, finding instead a significant association between firearm availability and suicide rates, as did U.S. analyses. While reproductions of Kleck’s other analyses continued to show no association, they were based on unreliable methods. I therefore reject Kleck’s conclusion that that firearm availability does not influence suicide rates.
Highlights: Using data global data, I find firearm availability is positively associated with suicide rates. I identify serious flaws in the logic and methods of Kleck and an earlier review. For transparency, data and code have been archived on a public repository.