Extending the Firearm Suicide Proxy for Household Gun Ownership

33 Pages Posted: 19 May 2023

See all articles by Megan Kang

Megan Kang

Princeton University - Department of Sociology

Elizabeth Rasich

University of Chicago

Date Written: May 19, 2023

Abstract

Introduction: Levels of gun ownership and lethal violence in the U.S. far surpass those in any other developed country, and yet there is little known about the origins of these trends due to a lack of historical data on the prevalence of gun ownership. To fill this gap, this study extends an existing proxy for household gun ownership rates — the rate of firearm suicide divided by suicide (FSS) — from 1949 to 2020, including new coverage for the 1949 to 1972 period.

Methods: A novel approach was developed to validate the FSS proxy for household gun ownership rates during a period that lacks firearm ownership measures conventionally used to validate firearm proxies. Historical data were compiled that should be strongly associated with gun ownership trends to test the strength and consistency of the relationship with FSS between 1949 to 2020.

Results: FSS can be used as a proxy for the prevalence of guns among U.S. households at the state level between 1949 to 1972. The FSS proxy increased by 45 percent between 1949 and 1990, the latter representing the U.S.’s peak FSS year. Over half of that increase occurred between 1949 and 1972, the period that previously lacked systematic data on gun prevalence rates.

Conclusions: Unlike most gun prevalence measures that are representative at the national or regional level, this proxy represents household gun ownership trends at the state level and is not reliant on self-reported data that are prone to social desirability bias. This extended proxy represents the longest-ranging dataset of state-level gun ownership rates to date.

Keywords: Household gun ownership proxy; firearm suicide; firearm homicide; validation

Suggested Citation

Kang, Megan and Rasich, Elizabeth, Extending the Firearm Suicide Proxy for Household Gun Ownership (May 19, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4453698 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4453698

Megan Kang (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Sociology ( email )

Princeton, NJ
United States

Elizabeth Rasich

University of Chicago

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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