HealthDay News — Raising the age of handgun sales from 18 to 21 years may reduce deaths from suicide among 18- to 20-year-olds, according to a study published online July 22 in The BMJ.
Julia Raifman, Sc.D., from the Boston University School of Public Health, and colleagues evaluated the association between U.S. state policies creating a minimum purchaser age of 18 or 21 years for the sale of handguns and adolescent suicide rates. The analysis included 554,461,961 adolescents aged 13 to 20 years (from 2001 to 2017) and 168,934,041 adolescents aged 18 to 20 years (from 2002 to 2014).
The researchers found that state policies that limited the sale of handguns to those aged ≥18 versus ≥21 years were associated with an increase in suicide rate among adolescents aged 18 to 20 years equivalent to 344 additional suicides in each state where they were in place from 2001 to 2017. State policies that limited the sale of handguns to those ≥21 years were associated with 1.91 fewer suicides per 100,000 adolescents aged 18 to 20 years. There were 1.83 fewer firearm-related suicides per 100,000 adolescents, with no association seen between age-21 handgun sales policies and non-firearm-related suicides in difference-in-differences analysis.
“A clear discontinuity was shown in the suicide rate by age at age 18 in states that limited the sale of handguns to individuals aged 18 or older,” the authors write.