Latest Research Findings
1. Improving Firearm Storage in Alaska Native Villages: A Randomized Trial of Household Gun Cabinets
The goal of this study was to see if installing gun cabinets increased safe gun storage. A randomized controlled trial was done with two groups: the “early” group received cabinets at baseline data collection and their storage practices were assessed again 12 months later. The “late” group received cabinets at 18 months after baseline. At baseline, 93% had at least one unlocked gun at home and 89% had unlocked ammunition. After a year, 35% of the early group reported at least one unlocked gun at home and 36% had unlocked ammunition. Results were similar for the early group six months later and a similar drop was observed for the late group at that time. The study provides evidence that installation of gun cabinets may improve gun and ammunition storage practices.
[Grossman DC, Stafford HA, Koepsell TD, Hill R, Retzer KD, and Jones W. Improving Firearm Storage in Alaska Native Villages: A Randomized Trial of Household Gun Cabinets. American Journal of Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 8, 2012: e1-e7. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300421.]
2. Preventing Suicide by Preventing Lethal Injury: The Need to Act on What We Already Know.
This editorial discusses the importance of applying existing research on the efficacy of lethal means restriction to suicide prevention strategies employed by health practitioners, and highlights three actionable steps for doing so: 1) discussions about lethal means access should take place with all high-risk patients, not just those actively suicidal; 2) the military, VHA, and wider medical community should create a trusted mechanism for safely removing and temporarily storing firearms on a patient’s behalf with his/her consent; 3) the federal government and others should promote research into effective communication strategies for firearm safety messages and other ways of operationalizing what has been learned from prior research.
[Miller M. Preventing suicide by preventing lethal injury: The need to act on what we already know. American Journal of Public Health. 2012; Vol 102 Supp 1: e1-e3.]
3. Current considerations about the elderly and firearms.
In the US, the elderly have the highest rate of suicide by firearm. Concerns about the ability of elderly individuals to safely operate motor vehicles apply to firearms as well, particularly for those with dementia and their caretakers. The public health implications of promoting firearms access to this population merit consideration.
[Mertens B, Sorenson SB. Current considerations about the elderly and firearms. Am J Public Health. 2012 Mar;102(3):396-400. Epub 2012 Jan 19.]
4. Suicide among patients in the veterans affairs health system: rural-urban differences in rates, risks, and methods.
Rural-urban differences in suicide rates, risks, and methods in US veterans were assessed. Mortality of all VA patients alive at the start of FY04 and FY07 was assessed using the National Death Index. Controlling for age, gender, psychiatric diagnoses, VA mental health services accessibility, and regional administrative network, rural patients had higher suicide rates, and firearm deaths were more common in rural suicides.
[McCarthy JF, Blow FC, Ignacio RV, Ilgen MA, Austin KL, Valenstein M.Suicide among patients in the veterans affairs health system: rural-urban differences in rates, risks, and methods. Am J Public Health. 2012 Mar;102 Suppl 1:S111-7]
5. Suicide Mortality in the United States: The Importance of Attending to Method in Understanding Population-Level Disparities in the Burden of Suicide.
This literature review examines the evidence that the proportion of all suicide attempts ending in a completed suicide (the case fatality ratio) accounts for a major portion of the variation in suicide mortality. In the US, the case fatality rate is strongly related to the prevalence of household firearms. Over twenty years of ecologic and individual-level studies support the hypothesis that reducing access to lethal means is an effective suicide prevention strategy.
[Miller M, Azrael D, Barber C. Suicide mortality in the United States: The importance of attending to method in understanding population-level disparities in the burden of suicide. Annual Review of Public Health. 2012; 33:393-408.]