States with Permitless Open Carry Laws See Higher Firearm-Related Deaths and Suicides

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons has found that states that relaxed their firearm laws to allow openly carrying a loaded firearm in public without a permit experienced significantly more firearm-related deaths and suicides compared to states without such laws.

The study, which analyzed death data from all 50 states between 2013 and 2021, also found that a change to permitless open carry laws within the study period was strongly associated with increases in both the rate of firearm-related suicide and the total suicide rate.

“Our analysis suggests that because of the change in the law, which provides easier access to firearms, we saw an increased firearm suicide rate and total suicide rate,” said principal study author Jose J. Diaz, MD, FACS, trauma medical director at Tampa General Hospital and a professor of surgery at the University of South Florida, Tampa.

The study found that total firearm deaths in all 50 states increased by 45% during the study period, from 33,636 in 2013 to 48,830 in 2021. Among states that changed to permitless open carry laws, causal analysis found an approximately 57% increase in total suicide rates and an 18% increase in suicides by firearm. However, the study found no association between permitless open carry laws and firearm-related homicides.

Dr. Diaz cautioned that the study’s retrospective nature means that it cannot definitively say that changing to more permissive open carry laws caused the increased rates of suicide by firearm. He also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic may have influenced the findings, citing the widely reported social isolation and poorer mental health observed during and after the pandemic.

The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma supports firearm injury prevention initiatives, including legislation that increases mandatory background checks for firearm ownership and that increases federal funding for research to prevent firearm injuries.

This study is published as an article in press on the JACS website.

#SuicidePrevention #GunSafety #PublicHealth

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