Alcohol and firearms are commonly involved in suicide in the United States. State alcohol and firearm policies may impact alcohol and firearm related suicide, yet little is known about these relationships. This study examines relationships between state alcohol and firearm policies and suicides involving alcohol, guns, or both, and explores interactive policy associations.
Alcohol policies were assessed with the Alcohol Policy Scale. Firearm policies were assessed using the Gun Law Scorecard from Giffords Law Center. Suicide data from the National Violent Death Reporting System in 2015 covered 22 states. State- and individual-level GEE Poisson and logistic regression models assessed relationships between policies and firearm- and/or alcohol-involved suicides with a 1-year lag.
In 2015, there were 8996 suicide deaths with blood alcohol concentration test results in the 22 included states. Of those deaths, alcohol and/or firearms were involved in 5749 or 63.9%. Higher alcohol and gun law scores were associated with reduced incidence rates and odds of suicides involving either alcohol or firearms (adjusted incidence rate ratios [IRR] 0.72 (95% CI 0.63, 0.83) for alcohol policies, 0.86 (95% CI 0.82, 0.90) for firearm policies). Relationships were similar for suicides involving both alcohol and firearms, and there was an interactive effect, such that states with restrictive policies for both had the lowest rates of suicides involving alcohol or guns.
More restrictive alcohol and firearm policies are associated with lower rates and odds of suicides involving alcohol or firearms, and alcohol and firearms, and may be a promising means by which to reduce suicide.