Seven in 10 Americans who bought firearms during the coronavirus pandemic have been suicidal at some point in their lives – making them twice as at-risk as other gun owners
- Researchers surveyed 3,500 US adults, one-third of whom were gun owners
- About 70% of gun owners who purchased firearms during pandemic had experienced suicidal thoughts their entire lives
- By comparison, 37% of firearm owners who did not make a purchase during lockdowns reported similar feelings
- An estimated 2.5 million Americans became first-time gun owners during the first four months of 2020
People who bought firearms during the coronavirus pandemic are more likely to be suicidal than other gun owners, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that 70 percent of Americans who purchased guns over the last few months reported having suicidal thoughts throughout their lives.
This was nearly double the 37 percent of firearm owners who had not purchased a gun during the pandemic who reported the same feelings.
The team, from Rutgers University School of Public Health, in New Jersey, says it believes people who bought firearms due to COVID-19 may have been driven by anxiety that leads to suicidal ideation.
A new study from Rutgers University School of Public Health, in New Jersey, found that 70% of firearm owners who purchase guns during the pandemic had suicidal thoughts their entire lives. Pictured: A gun shop employee shows guns to customers at SP Firearms Unlimited in New York City, August 6
Dr Michael Anestis, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, says more than 2.5 million Americans became first-time gun owners between January and April of this year.
In March 2020 alone, when stay-at-home orders and lockdowns were first implemented, about two million firearms were purchased.
‘Firearm owners are usually no more likely than non-firearm owners to experience suicidal thoughts,’ he said.
‘It is possible that a higher-risk group is driving the current firearm purchasing surge, introducing long-term suicide risk into the homes of individuals who otherwise may not have acquired firearms during a time of extended social isolation, economic uncertainty and general upheaval.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the team surveyed 3,500 Americans.
They were split into three groups: firearm owners who did not buy during the pandemic, people who purchased a firearm during the pandemic and non-firearm owners.
About one-third of the participants owned guns.
They were asked what their reasons were for buying a gun during the pandemic, how they stored their guns and if they ever had thoughts of suicide.
Results showed that, of people who purchased firearms during the pandemic, 70 percent had experienced suicidal thoughts their entire lives.
During the previous year, 56 precent experienced suicidal thoughts and 25 percent had in the last month.’
By comparison, just 37 percent of firearm owners who did not purchase a weapon during the pandemic had suicidal thoughts in their lifetime.
This means gun owners were about half as likely to be suicidal as gun owners during the pandemic.
Additionally, about 24 percent experienced suicidal thoughts in the last month and around 25 percent did in the last month.
‘People who were motivated to purchase firearms during COVID-19 might have been driven by anxiety that leaves them vulnerable to suicidal ideation,’ said Dr Michael Anestis, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.
‘While this does not guarantee an increase in suicide rates, it represents an unusually large surge in risk made more troubling by the fact that firearms purchased during COVID-19 may remain in homes beyond the pandemic.’
What’s more, people who purchased a firearm during the pandemic were less likely to have not secure firearm habits.
[such as switching between unloading their firearms and loading them before storage; using locking devices and then removing them; or switching between storing a firearm outside and inside the home.]
‘The increase in firearm purchases is concerning given that suicide is three times more likely in homes with firearms, and there is a hundred-fold increase in an individual’s suicide risk immediately following the purchase of a handgun,’ said Anestis.
‘And unsafe firearm storage increases that risk.’