Firearm ownership has been recognized as a major risk factor for suicide attempt and suicide death for at least 3 decades. Rates of handgun ownership were strongly associated with suicide rates, and the trends in each of these rates were shown to be associated over time. Most notably, a study of California residents found hazard of suicide to be 3 times greater among men and 7 times greater among women if they owned a firearm. With the increase in firearm purchases observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential effect of this risk factor has only increased. Likewise, mood disorders, and depressive episodes in particular, are strongly associated with suicide risk. In some (but not all) investigations, depression is also associated with gun ownership, consistent with another small study of young adults with a history of suicidality. Remarkably, little is known about the convergence of these 2 risk factors for suicide (ie, the extent of firearm ownership among individuals who are depressed). As a particularly high-risk group, if only because they have 2 major risk factors, gun owners with depression would seem to represent a prime opportunity for focused interventions to reduce risk. Such a focus may be critical given the challenges in developing reliable risk stratification and effective suicide prevention strategies. Indeed, a study of 135 US Army soldiers who died of suicide found that firearm ownership and modifiable aspects of ownership, such as gun storage, were associated with risk. To better understand the characteristics of individuals with depression who own or plan to purchase firearms, we used data from 2 waves of a large national survey conducted between April and July 2021. We sought to understand the prevalence of firearm ownership, including recent purchase (defined as purchase within the last 12-18 months) and plans for future purchase, among individuals with depressive symptoms and then to quantify the sociodemographic features associated with ownership in this group.
Perlis, Roy H., Matthew D. Simonson, Jon Green, Jennifer Lin, Alauna Safarpour, Kristin Lunz Trujillo, Alexi Quintana, Hanyu Chwe, John Della Volpe, Katherine Ognyanova, Mauricio Santillana, James Druckman, David Lazer, and Matthew A. Baum. "Prevalence of Firearm Ownership Among Individuals With Major Depressive Symptoms." JAMA Netw Open 5.3 (March 21, 2022): 1-13.