A new study conducted by researchers at the Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School
of Public Health provides evidence that the child
access prevention laws for firearms enacted by 18 U.S.
states significantly reduced suicide rates among young
people 14 to 17 years old. CAP laws require gun owners to
store their guns so as to prevent unsupervised access by
children. The study is published in the Aug. 4 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study used data from 1976-2001 to examine the
association between federal and state firearm laws and
suicide rates among youth. State CAP laws were associated
with an 8.3 percent reduction in youth suicide rates for
14- to 17-year-olds. As would be expected if these laws in
fact reduce youth access to guns, CAP laws reduced suicides
with firearms but had no effect on nonfirearm suicides.
The study's authors estimate that CAP laws prevented
more than 300 youth suicides during the years that the laws
were enacted (1989-2001), saving 35 lives in 2001 alone. In
2001, suicide was the third leading cause of death among
10- to 19-year-olds.
"Our findings demonstrate that many youth suicides are
preventable by making firearms — an especially lethal
means of self-harm — less accessible to adolescents,"
said Daniel Webster, lead author of the study and
co-director of the Johns Hopkins
Center for Gun
Policy and Research at the Bloomberg School.
The study also examined two other categories of
youth-focused laws — minimum purchase age and minimum
possession age laws for firearms — and did not find
an association between these laws and significant
reductions in youth suicide. "This finding should not be
particularly surprising, since other research indicates
that most youth firearm suicides involve guns already owned
by the victims' parents," according to Jon Vernick,
co-author of the study and co-director of the Johns Hopkins
Center for Gun Policy and Research. The study did not
examine the effects of these laws on youth homicides or
The study was funded in part by a grant from the David
and Lucile Packard Foundation. Authors, in addition to
Webster and Vernick, are April M. Zeoli and Jennifer A.
Manganello, both of Johns Hopkins.