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1
Letters   |    
Suicide, Firearms, and Data
Andrew L. Brickman, Ph.D.; Devra C. Mintz, M.D., M.P.H.
Psychiatric Services 2003; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.54.5.749

In Reply: We thank Dr. Berg for raising the issue of firearm availability in the interpretation of self-inflicted injury rates. In our Datapoints column, we intentionally made no reference to firearm availability as a factor contributing to the rise in self-inflicted injuries in the United States.

During the six-year period between 1993 and 1998, the rate of suicide by firearm dropped by approximately 15 percent, while the rate of firearm-related homicides fell by 42 percent and the rate of unintentional firearm-related deaths fell by 47 percent. During the same period, the rate of nonfatal suicide attempts by firearm declined by 48 percent, compared with a 49 percent decrease in the rate of firearm-related assaults and a 37 percent decrease in unintentional, nonfatal firearm-related injuries (1). Given these data, it is safe to assume that the overall increase in self-inflicted injuries seen during this period in U.S. emergency departments was not due to an increase in firearm-related injuries. Furthermore, although we agree with Dr. Berg that firearm availability in the home has been shown to be associated with self-inflicted harm (2), domestic rifle and handgun sales have been decreasing over the past decade (3).

Firearm-related injury remains a serious public health burden, accounting in 1998 for 31,000 deaths and 64,500 nonfatal injuries treated in hospital emergency departments (1). However, firearm-related injuries do not account for the increasing rate of self-inflicted injuries seen in emergency departments.

Surveillance for fatal and nonfatal firearm-related injuries: United States, 1993-1998. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 50 (SS02):1-32,  2001
 
Kellerman AL, Rivara FP, Somes G, et al: Suicide in the home in relation to gun ownership. New England Journal of Medicine 327:467-472,  1992
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms: Commerce in Firearms in the United States, February 2000. Available at http://atf.treas.gov/pub/fire-explo_pub/020400report.pdf
 
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References

Surveillance for fatal and nonfatal firearm-related injuries: United States, 1993-1998. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 50 (SS02):1-32,  2001
 
Kellerman AL, Rivara FP, Somes G, et al: Suicide in the home in relation to gun ownership. New England Journal of Medicine 327:467-472,  1992
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms: Commerce in Firearms in the United States, February 2000. Available at http://atf.treas.gov/pub/fire-explo_pub/020400report.pdf
 
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