The effect of state gun laws on youth suicide by firearm: 1981–2017

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The effect of state gun laws on youth suicide by firearm: 1981–2017

Category: Firearm Policies, Injury, Suicide|Journal: Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior|Author: J Kappelman, R Fording|Year: 2021


Many studies have found that state gun laws that regulate the purchase and possession of firearms can lead to a reduction in suicide rates. Yet, the literature has primarily focused on the effects of state gun laws on adult suicides, despite the fact that some gun laws are specifically tailored to restrict the purchase and possession of firearms by youths.


In this study, we estimate the effect of two such laws—Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws and minimum age laws—on youth suicide by firearm rates.

Materials & Methods

Our sample consists of state-level panel data for 41 states observed over the years 1981–2017.


Based on a series of negative binomial regression analyses, we confirm previous research by finding that CAP laws are associated with a decrease in youth suicides by firearm, especially among males. However, we show that this effect is limited to states that have adopted relatively strict CAP laws. We also find that minimum age laws serve to reduce the youth suicide rate, but once again this effect is largely concentrated among males. Finally, we investigate the possibility that these effects were countered to some degree by “means substitution”—the substitution of firearms with other methods of suicide.


Similar to other studies that have examined this question, we find no effect of youth-targeted gun laws on nonfirearm suicide deaths.


Despite the noteworthy increase in youth suicide rates over the last decade, our results suggest that state laws which restrict firearm access to young people continue to represent a potentially effective strategy for suicide reduction.