Relationship of Household Gun Ownership to Firearm and Non-Firearm Suicide Rates in Wisconsin Communities

Evelyn M. Kuhn, Medical College of Wisconsin
Carrie Nie, Medical College of Wisconsin
Stephen Hargarten, Medical College of Wisconsin

Objective: To examine the relationship between household firearm ownership and the rate of firearm and non-firearm suicide in Wisconsin communities. Methods: The percentage of households owning gun(s) in central and outlying Milwaukee and in six suburban Milwaukee County communities was obtained from surveys conducted in 1990 and 1996 by the Planning Council. Information on suicide was from the Wisconsin Violent Injury Reporting System and Milwaukee County medical examiner database. The residence address of the victim was used to determine community. Results: The total suicide rate varied from 5.7 to 13.0 per 100,000, and the proportion of suicides by firearm varied from 36% to 70%. Household gun ownership ranged from 9.9% in central Milwaukee to 35.7% in a suburban community. The correlation coefficients between gun ownership and 1) firearm suicide, 2)non-firearm suicide, and 3)total suicide were 0.84 (p=.009), .002 (p=ns), 0.54 (p=ns) respectively. Results were similar after adjustment for percentage of community residents with incomes under the poverty level, 0.83 (p=.022), 0.24 (p=ns), and 0.66 (p=ns). Conclusions: Community rates of firearm suicide, but not non-firearm suicide, are significantly positively associated with the percentage of households owning gun(s). This supports evidence from case-control studies that firearm suicide is related to access to firearms.

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Updated 05/20/2006