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Firearm suicide among youth in the United States, 2004–2015


Suicide is a leading cause of death among children in the United States; firearms cause 37% of these deaths. Research is needed to better understand firearm accessibility among youth at risk for suicide. We reviewed data from the National Fatality Review Case Reporting System (NFR-CRS). Firearm suicide deaths of children ages 10–18 occurring 2004 through 2015 with completed suicide-specific section were included. Children who had talked about, threatened or attempted suicide were identified as “Greater Risk” (GR). Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) were calculated. Of the 2106 firearm suicide deaths, 1388 (66%) had a completed NFR-CRS suicide section. Of these, 36% (494/1388) met the criteria for GR. Firearms were less likely to be stored in a locked location for GR children [adjusted OR 0.62, (95%CI 0.49–0.98)]. Strategies to limit firearm access, particularly for GR youth, should be a focus of suicide prevention efforts.

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The National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention is funded in part by Cooperative Agreement (UG7MC28482) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The authors gratefully acknowledge Linda J Kesselring, MS, ELS for copyediting, Shaohui Zhai, Ph.D. for biostatistical advice, and the states that participate in the NFR-CRS.

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Correspondence to Patricia G. Schnitzer.

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Patricia G. Schnitzer, Heather K. Dykstra, Theodore E. Trigylidas and Richard Lichenstein declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This study did not include living human participants or animals. For this type of study (retrospective analysis of secondary data on deceased children) formal consent is not required.

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Schnitzer, P.G., Dykstra, H.K., Trigylidas, T.E. et al. Firearm suicide among youth in the United States, 2004–2015. J Behav Med 42, 584–590 (2019).

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  • Suicide
  • Firearms
  • Gun violence
  • Pediatrics
  • Prevention
  • Child death review