Americans Who Purchased Firearms During the COVID-19 Pandemic had Suicidal Ideations

handgun and safe
handgun and safe
With an increase in firearm purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study looks at whether firearm purchases differ in terms of suicide risk from nonfirearm owners and firearm owners who did not purchase firearms during the pandemic.

New firearm purchases during the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic appeared to be correlated with suicidal ideation. These findings, from an online survey, were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Residents of the United States (N=3500) were recruited in June and July of 2020 through the online platform Qualtrics Panel and were matched to the 2010 US Census for age, sex, ethnicity, income, and education. Participants were assessed for firearm ownership and by the Self-Injurious Thoughts and Behaviors Interview-Revisited tool. Participants were stratified into non-firearm owners (n=2330), previous firearm owners (n=963), and COVID-19 purchasers (n=201).

Individuals who purchased a firearm during COVID-19 were more likely to report lifetime suicidal ideation (69.2%) compared with previous firearm owners (37.1%; adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.32; 95% CI, 0.23-0.45; P <.001) or those without firearms (37.9%; AOR, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.21-0.40; P <.001). Similar observations were observed for suicidal ideation during the previous year or previous month (all P <.001).

COVID-19 purchasers who did or did not have a history of suicidal ideation differed significantly for storing their firearm loaded in a closet (lifetime history: 2.9% vs 14.5%; c2, 9.60; P =.002; j, -0.22) and using a locking device (past year: 42.9% vs 24.7%; c2, 7.19; P =.007; j, 0.19; past month: 49.0% vs 30.0%; c2, 6.07; P =.014; j, 0.17).

Individuals who purchased a firearm during COVID-19 made more changes to their storage practices which made them less (0.65 vs 0.08; F, 216.40; P <.001; ph2, 0.16) or more (0.58 vs 0.07; F, 194.08; P <.001; ph2, 0.14) secure compared with previous firearm owners.

COVID-19 firearm purchasers stated they were primarily motivated by safety and protection inside the home followed by outside the home.

This study was limited by its sample size, in which fewer individuals had purchased a firearm during the pandemic.

These data suggested that individuals who were purchasing firearms during the COVID-19 pandemic were at an increased risk for suicidal behaviors, indicating that the development of a national strategy is needed in order to combat a potential surge of gun-related suicides in the United States.


Anestis MD, Bond AE, Daruwala SE, Bandel SL, Bryan CJ. Suicidal ideation among individuals who have purchased firearms during COVID-19. Am J Prev Med. Published online November 17, 2020. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2020.10.013