Pandemic gun buyers more likely to be suicidal, study finds

Suicidal thoughts are more likely among Americans who have bought guns during the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent study found.

The Rutgers University study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reported that 70% of pandemic gun buyers thought of ending their life, compared to 37% for the rest of the firearm community.

“People who were motivated to purchase firearms during COVID-19 might have been driven by anxiety that leaves them vulnerable to suicidal ideation,” Michael Anestis, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Anestis said that this poses both an immediate and long-term risk of suicide as the these new guns will remain in homes long after the pandemic ends.

The report also found that pandemic gun buyers were more likely to store their guns improperly, adding to the threat of suicide.

Gun purchases have risen steadily since the pandemic began — in March alone, around 2 million firearms were sold in the United States, the study found.

The Brookings Institute said that in the 12 days after the U.S declared a national emergency concerning the coronavirus, daily firearms purchases rose to 176,000 sales a day, up from an average of around 90,000 for the two months before.

More than 2.5 million Americans have become new gun owners in the past nine months, according to Anestis.

This increase in new gun ownership is occurring locally as well. From March to August of this year, compared with 2019, regional background checks have jumped 121.2% in D.C., 111.5% in Maryland and 91.7% in Virginia.

Though people may be buying guns to provide a sense of safety, Anestis said that owning a firearm increases one’s risk of suicide.

“The increase in firearm purchases is concerning given that suicide is three times more likely in homes with firearms, and there is a hundredfold increase in an individual’s suicide risk immediately following the purchase of a handgun,” Anestis said.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Luke Garrett

Luke Garrett is a D.C. native dedicated to journalism. He is a reporter and the creator, host and producer of the original WTOP podcast, “DMV Download.” The podcast debuted in 2022. On the show, Garrett takes a weekly look at the biggest stories and ideas in the D.C. region.

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