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Trigger Warning: The Causal Impact of Gun Ownership on Suicide

Alexander McQuoid, Charles Moore (), Stephen Sawyer () and David C. Vitt ()
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Charles Moore: United States Naval Academy
Stephen Sawyer: United States Naval Academy
David C. Vitt: Farmingdale State College SUNY

Departmental Working Papers from United States Naval Academy Department of Economics

Abstract: With a growing debate over tighter firearm regulations, we consider an important social consequence of increased firearm access: increased firearm suicides. Using data from the federal criminal background check system, we consider the impact of firearm ownership of firearm suicide rates. To deal with concerns of identification, we instrument for firearm background checks with state-year level Google search intensity for phrases that reflect fear of future gun shortages and learning about the constitutional rights of firearm owners. We find that an increase in firearm ownership has a sizable and statistically significant impact on firearm suicide rates. A 10% increase in firearm ownership increases firearm suicide rates by 3.1%, which is five times larger than OLS estimates. Furthermore, we find no effect of gun ownership on non-firearm suicide rates, suggesting our findings are not simply capturing a suicide method substitution effect. The results are consistent with a variety of validity and robustness tests. Our results make clear the link between firearm ownership and firearm suicide rates, both of which have increased dramatically over the last decade. decade.

Pages: 38 pages
Date: 2017-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hea and nep-law
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (1)

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Journal Article: Trigger warning: the causal impact of gun ownership on suicide (2018) Downloads
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