Research on handgun laws, suicide rates published

Research on handgun laws, suicide rates published

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Michael Anestis, an assistant professor of psychology at The University of Southern Mississippi and members of his research team recently had a paper accepted for publication in the American Journal of Public Health, titled "The association between state laws regulating handgun ownership and statewide suicide rates."

The study examined the association between a series of state laws regulating handgun ownership and several suicide-related outcomes, and found that states with these laws in place had lower overall suicide rates, lower suicide by firearms rates and a lower percentage of suicides resulting from firearms.

"What this means is that the laws influence overall suicide rates, across methods, by leading to fewer suicide attempts, leading to attempts using less lethal means, leading to fewer handguns in the home, or some combination of those possibilities," Anestis said.

The research project also found that, in states that implemented one of these laws during the years for which suicide data were available, the suicide rates in those states decreased in the years following implementation of the law, whereas the rates continued to rise in other states.

"Our findings thus point to an important role for legislation of handgun ownership in reducing suicide rates," Anestis said. "We do not propose that legislation is the only solution or that it will completely eliminate suicide; however, our findings are consistent with a robust research base showing that restricting access to highly lethal means (e.g., handguns) can have a profound and lasting effect on suicide rates, and that restriction of one method does not simply result in an increase in other methods."

Anestis is the current Nina Bell Suggs Professor of Psychology and the Department of Psychology's chairman of admissions for its Clinical Psychology Program. His areas of research include the nature of and risk factors for suicidal behavior, paradoxical effects of emotion dysregulation, dysregulated behaviors (e.g., binge eating, non-suicidal self-injury), and psychopathy. He also recently served as chairman for the 48th annual conference for the American Association for Suicidology in Atlanta, where he presented findings from the published research.

For information about the Southern Miss Department of Psychology, visit