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Connecticut and Missouri: a Contrast in Gun Policy and Gun Suicide Rates

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Stringent gun permit laws may contribute to a drop in the gun suicide rate, according to a new study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. The study contrasted the gun policies and gun suicide rates in Connecticut and Missouri.

In 1995, Connecticut began requiring people to pass a background check and 8 hours of gun safety training before they could purchase a handgun. According to the study, Connecticut's gun law resulted in a 15.4 percent drop in suicides by a firearm in the ten years after the law was enacted.

Contrast those numbers with Missouri, where gun suicides jumped 16.1 percent after 2007, when the state repealed a 1921 law that required people to apply in person for a gun permit at their local sheriff's office.

Daniel Webster, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research said the handgun permit process unintentionally deters gun suicide.

"People have suicidal impulses far more frequently than they act upon them, and having ready access to a firearm appears to play a big role in the risks of suicides," Webster said. "The second part of this is that the same set of risk factors or conditions that disqualify someone from legally being able to purchase or possess a gun, those are also risk factors for suicide."

Still, Webster said he could not prove a direct correlation between between gun laws and gun suicides for this study. For example, the overall suicide rate in Connecticut dropped at about the same pace as gun suicides.

But in Missouri, the overall suicide rate stayed the same after 2007, while gun suicides spiked.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists suicide as the second leading cause of death in people age 15 to 34 years. About half of all suicides are committed with a firearm.

The study is published in a special issue of Preventive Medicine.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series “Where Art Thou?” Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of “Morning Edition”, and later of “All Things Considered.”

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