Background The availability of firearms in homes and at aggregate levels is a risk factor for suicide and homicide. One method of reducing access to suicidal means is the restriction of firearm availability through more stringent legislation.
Aims To evaluate the impact of firearm legislation reform on firearm suicides and homicides as well as on the availability of firearms in Austria.
Method Official statistics on suicides, firearm homicides and firearm licences issued from 1985 to 2005 were examined. To assess the effect of the new firearm law, enacted in 1997, linear regression and Poisson regressions were performed using data from before and after the law reform.
Results The rate of firearm suicides among some age groups, percentage of firearm suicides, as well as the rate of firearm homicides and the rate of firearm licences, significantly decreased after a more stringent firearm law had been implemented.
Conclusions Our findings provide evidence that the introduction of restrictive firearmlegislation effectively reduced the rates of firearm suicide and homicide. The decline in firearm-related deaths seems to have been mediated by the legal restriction of firearm availability. Restrictive firearm legislation should be an integral part of national suicide prevention programmes in countries with high firearm suicide rates.