Background Check Gun Control Laws Might Hinder Suicide Prevention Efforts

Some researchers believe that background checks that go along with gun-control laws might actually interfere with suicide prevention efforts because it delays the time it takes to temporarily transfer a gun to a close friend or relative.

When people have guns, and believe that a family member in their home is planning to attempt suicide, they look to get the guns out of the house as quickly as possible. But what researchers found is that gun laws in some states slow down the temporary transfer process so much that it might actually affect the rate of suicide.

According to Jon S. Vernick of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and his team, what would help is a safe place outside the home that some can store his or her firearm safely like federally licensed firearm dealers, law enforcement officers, family members and friends.

The research was published in an issue of JAMA Internal Medicine that was focused on firearm violence.

In a different article in the same issue, public health researchers in Boston proposed that healthcare professionals need to be working with gun shop owners, instructors, and gun rights stakeholders to devise a plan that would “jointly devise strategies to put time and distance between a suicidal person and a firearm.”

A separate study in the same issue examined how after Florida passed their “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, the number of suicides that occurred in the state remained the same but the number of gun-related homicides went up significantly.

But, certain laws can be put in place to reduce the number of fatalities that occur from gun-related incidents. “Not surprisingly, laws that strengthen background checks and laws requiring permit to purchase are associated with lower firearm homicide rates,” said Dr. Lois Lee, a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital who led another of the studies.

But, what Dr. Lee also found was that laws to reduce gun trafficking, improve child safety, and ban military style weapons did not have a clear connection to reduced rates of suicide or homicide. When she studied laws that tried to regulate people carrying weapons, her research had mixed results.

“Legislation is just one part of a multi-pronged approach that will be necessary to decrease firearm homicides and suicides in the United States,” Lee’s team writes.

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