Firearm Suicide in DC

This blogger has been researching statistics for presentation to the District of Columbia City Council in relation to their bill B20-170 to require insurance for guns.  Some of the figures are striking.  Firearm homicide for DC over the 10 year period 2001-2010 is over 5 times the national average but firearm suicide is one third of its national average.  This means there are over 15 times as many suicides per homicide nationally than in DC.  Part of this difference is no doubt demographic.  Suicide rates vary dramatically by race, age and gender.  But the non-firearm suicide rate per 100,000 persons in DC is 75% of the national average and the firearm suicide rate is only 32% of the national average.  That difference is probably due to the scarcity of guns in DC even with the large illegal gun problem. If this difference had not existed then there would have been an additional 142 firearm suicides in DC during the 10 year period.

It’s fair to conclude that DC’s strict firearm laws are saving about 14 lives a year from suicide, but would an insurance requirement have a substantial part of this effect in places where firearms are common.  Suicide researchers generally think that most suicides are impulsive and that substitution of means is uncommon.  This is an area where removal of the restrictions on firearm data gathering and research is very much needed.  Insurers requirements for safe storage can make a large difference.  Many informed public health experts believe that even things as small as separate storage of ammunition and keeping guns unloaded will make a substantial difference.  A person who keeps his gun at a range or shooting club rather than at home in order to get a lower insurance rate is far less likely to take an impulsive but irreversible and tragic action with it.

The figures in the table all concern deaths by firearm unless otherwise labeled.  They are totals for the period 2001-2010 and are taken from the CDC’s WISQARS system.  Rates are per 100,000 population and are not age-adjusted.

Intent DC US DC Rate US Rate
All Intents 1,453 306,946 25.18 10.21
Accidents 16 6,739 0.23 0.23
Suicide 109 175,221 1.89 5.79
Homicide 1,311 119,246 22.72 4.01
Legal Intervention 13 3,325 0.32 0.11
         
Accidents/Homicides 0.012 0.057 0.010 0.057
Suicides/Homicides 0.083 1.469 0.083 1.444
         
All Suicide Firearm or Not 352 338,043 6.1 11.38
Non Firearm Suicide 243 162,822 4.21 5.59

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