Firearm-related suicides increased between 2006-07 and 2009-10 in a majority of the 50 most populated metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, according to a CDC report.
Meanwhile, firearm-related homicide rates decreased in a majority of those areas, with the burden highest among children and adolescents ages 10 to 19.
As published in the Aug. 2 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the firearm homicide rate for large metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) remained above the national average for 2009-10. However, more than three-fourths of MSAs showed a decreased rate since 2006-07, largely accounting for an overall national decrease.
The firearm homicide rate for children and adolescents ages 10 to 19 exceeded the all-ages rate in many of the MSAs during 2009-10, similar to the earlier reporting period.
The firearm suicide rate for large MSAs remained below the national average during 2009-10. However, nearly three-fourths of these areas showed an increase from 2006-07, paralleling the national trend. Firearm suicide rates for children and adolescents ages 10 to 19 were low compared with all-ages rates during both periods.
“The observed declines in firearm homicide rates and increases in firearm suicide rates are consistent with longer-term trends in homicide and suicide nationally,” the report authors wrote. “Homicide rates generally have been declining in the United States during the past two decades. Factors identified by previous research as influencing this decline include shifting demographics, changes in markets for illegal drugs, law enforcement responses to gun violence and drug-related crime, increased incarceration rates, community policing and related efforts, and improving economic conditions throughout much of the 1990s.
“Increasing suicide rates have been prominent in the middle-aged population during the past decade as the percentage of suicides accounted for by this group has steadily increased. Suicide rates within this age group previously have been associated with business cycles; national unemployment rates notably doubled from 2006-2007 to 2009-2010.”
The authors listed several possible strategies for reducing firearm violence by people at risk for harming themselves or others: safe storage of guns, waiting periods to reduce the consequences of impulsive suicidal behavior, designing firearms to make them safer and efforts such as background checks to prevent high-risk people (such as those convicted of violent crimes, those subject to protective orders because of threats of domestic violence and those with documented mental illness posing a risk to themselves or others) from possessing firearms. Further research is needed to assess the effectiveness of such strategies, they wrote.
Other studies have noted effective strategies for preventing youth violence. These include school-based programs addressing social, emotional and behavioral competencies; parent- and family-based programs that promote positive relationships, communication, support and proper supervision; and efforts to improve school, neighborhood and community environments to reduce the likelihood of violence.
Read the report: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6230a1.htm?s_cid=mm6230a1_w.