Americans underestimate how often firearms are used in suicides in the U.S.

Americans underestimate the frequency with which guns are used in suicides and overestimate how often homicides are committed in their home states, according to a new study.

Using data from the National Firearms Survey, researchers asked 3,949 U.S. adults to choose from four options on the intent and means of violent deaths in their home state: homicide with a gun; homicide with a weapon other than a gun; suicide with a gun, and; suicide by any method other than a gun. 

A minority (13.5 percent) of American adults were able to correctly identify the leading cause of violent death in their states, according to a new paper published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In a majority (29 states), suicide by gun was the leading cause of violent death, while it was suicide by another means in 20 other states and homicide by gun in Maryland. 

Suicide is twice as common as homicide in the U.S., and suicide by firearm is more common than homicide with a gun all states except Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey

Suicide is twice as common as homicide in the U.S., and suicide by firearm is more common than homicide with a gun all states except Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey

Suicide is twice as common as homicide in the U.S., and suicide by firearm is more common than homicide with a gun all states except Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey

In addition, suicide is twice as common as homicide in the U.S., and suicide by firearm is more common than homicide with a gun all states except Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey.

‘We were interested in learning about how people perceived the relative frequency (of suicide and homicide by gun) because we think it translates to people’s perception of their own risk,’ researcher Erin Morgan, of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington, told DailyMail.com.

‘Suicide is actually a lot more common than homicide and not knowing that the presence of a firearm in the home increases all household members’ risk of suicide … may influence my purchasing of a gun and how I want to store it,’ she added.

Researchers also found that just 20 percent of health care workers (of the 1,880 surveyed) were able to correctly identify the leading cause of violent death and suicide in their states.

In addition, a fraction (12.4 percent) of Americans with a history of mental illness answered correctly.

The ability to answer correctly did not vary among gun owners and non-gun owners, according to the study.

Researchers said their findings suggest that more education is needed to ensure Americans are aware of the risk that firearms may pose to themselves and their families, as suicides account for nearly two-thirds of the deaths by gun in the U.S. 

Alaska had the highest rate of suicides by gun, with 16.1 per 100,000 people. Montana ranked second, with 15.7 per 100,000, followed by Wyoming (14.8), New Mexico (12.4) and Idaho (12.1).

Meanwhile, Louisiana had the highest rate of homicide by gun in the country, with 9.4 per 100,000 people in that state. Mississippi ranked second, with 8.7 per 100,000, followed by Alabama (7), Missouri (6.5) and South Carolina (6.4).

Researchers cautioned that the states with the lowest homicide rates (Hawaii, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Vermont) have fewer than 20 deaths total, which can skew the incidence rate per 100,000. 

The data was released the same day as a new policy position paper from the American College of Physicians on the best ways to reduce firearm injuries and deaths in the U.S.

The paper was an update from a previous statement that made several recommendations, including: establishing coalitions on gun violence to bring together diverse perspectives on the issue, and preserving free speech for physicians to speak publicly and with patients about the risks that come with having a firearm in the home.

The changes to the College’s position on the issue included new calls for ‘appropriate’ regulation of the purchase of legal firearms, including: legislation that would make it harder for people convicted of domestic violence to obtain a gun, and; laws that would ban the production and sale of semiautomatic firearms that can be modified to increase their rapid-killing capacity.

America is home to 393.3 million civilian-owned guns and has a population of 316.5 million – amounting to about 1.2 firearms per person, according to a report by Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based think tank.

While the U.S. has more than one gun per person, a majority (69 percent) of Americans do not currently own a gun, according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center. In addition, two-thirds of gun owners have more than one firearm, including 29 percent who own five or more. 

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