Given the increase in firearm purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study seeks to determine the extent to which COVID-19 firearm purchasers differ in terms of suicide risk from nonfirearm owners and firearm owners who did not make a purchase during COVID-19.
Participants (N=3,500) were recruited through Qualtrics Panels to participate in an online survey examining methods for self-protection. ANCOVAs were utilized to assess suicidal ideation. Multivariate ANCOVAs were used to examine firearm storage practices and storage changes during COVID-19. Data were collected in late June and early July 2020, and analyses were conducted in July 2020.
Individuals who purchased a firearm during COVID-19 more frequently reported lifetime, past-year, and past-month suicidal ideation than nonfirearm owners and firearm owners who did not make a purchase during COVID-19. COVID-19 purchasers with lifetime ideation were less likely to hide loaded firearms in a closet than those without lifetime ideation. COVID-19 purchasers with past-year or past-month ideation were more likely to use locking devices than COVID-19 purchasers without past-month ideation.
In contrast to firearm owners more generally, COVID-19 firearm purchasers appear far more likely to have experienced suicidal ideation and appear less likely to use certain unsafe firearm storage methods but also report a greater number of storage changes during COVID-19 that made firearms less secure. Future research should seek to further understand those who purchased a firearm during COVID-19 and determine ways to increase secure storage among firearm owners.