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The Boston Globe


Science in Mind

Study says gun in home raises suicide risk

In the late 1950s in England and Wales, people began switching from heating their stoves with a gas containing carbon monoxide to one that didn’t. Over the next two decades, the suicide rate dropped, a decline attributed to the decline in death by carbon monoxide poisoning. Forty years later, the Sri Lankan government began to restrict the use of extremely toxic pesticides that had been commonly ingested to commit suicide. The suicide rate in that country dropped by half. In the United States, gun ownership dropped over a 22-year period ending in 2002, and the rate of suicides using guns declined, too.

When people talk about preventing suicide, the conversation usually centers on detecting and treating suicidal behavior, but a growing body of evidence points to a far simpler and more effective way to save thousands of lives: simply remove the means by which people commit suicide. In the United States, where half of all suicides are committed with a gun, that means firearms.

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