Investigating the Relationship Between Social and Economic Policy Views, Firearm Ownership, and Death by Firearm in a Sample of Suicide Decedents

Sarah E. Butterworth, Claire Houtsma, Joye C. Anestis, Michael D. Anestis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Extant literature provides evidence for the frequent use and lethality of firearms in suicide and the ability of means safety measures to prevent suicides; however, little evidence exists to provide an understanding of the characteristics that differentiate suicide decedents who die by firearm from those who die by other methods. In this study, we build on prior findings regarding the characteristics of those who die by firearms by examining the relationship between social and economic policy views and both firearm ownership and death by firearm in a sample of 160 American suicide decedents. We hypothesized that individuals with more conservative social and economic policy views would have higher rates of firearm ownership and would be more likely to die by firearm than would individuals with more liberal social and economic policy views. Furthermore, we hypothesized that differences in the likelihood of dying by a firearm would be accounted for by firearm ownership, providing preliminary evidence for a specific mechanism through which risk for death by firearm is conferred. As expected, suicide decedents with conservative social and economic policy views owned firearms at higher rates than did decedents with moderate or liberal views. The use of a firearm, the most common method across all decedents, was higher in individuals with conservative policy views. These results represent a novel angle from which to consider the importance of means safety efforts focused on firearm ownership and storage and limit concerns that firearm specific suicide research has relied too heavily on samples that are not representative of typical American suicide decedents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-431
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Suicide Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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