Inj Prev 9:48-52 doi:10.1136/ip.9.1.48
  • Original Article

Association between handgun purchase and mortality from firearm injury

  1. K M Grassel,
  2. G J Wintemute,
  3. M A Wright,
  4. M P Romero
  1. Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis
  1. Correspondence and reprint requests to:
 Dr Garen J Wintemute, Violence Prevention Research Program, UC Davis Medical Center, 2315 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA;


    Objective: To determine the association between mortality from violent or firearm related injury and previous handgun purchase.

    Methods: Case-control study of 213 466 Californians ages 21 and older who died in 1998; cases were the 4728 violent or firearm related injury deaths, with subsets by specific cause and means of death, and controls were the 208 738 non-injury deaths. The exposure of interest was the purchase of a handgun during 1996–98. The main outcome measure was the odds ratio for handgun purchase, adjusted for age, sex, race, education, and marital status.

    Results: Handgun purchase was more common among persons dying from suicide (odds ratio (OR) 6.8; 95% confidence interval (CI) 5.7 to 8.1) or homicide (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.6 to 3.7), and particularly among those dying from gun suicide (OR 12.5; 95% CI 10.4 to 15.0) or gun homicide (OR 3.3; 95% CI 2.1 to 5.3), than among controls. No such differences were seen for non-gun suicide or homicide. Among women, those dying from gun suicide were much more likely than controls to have purchased a handgun (OR 109.8; 95% CI 61.6 to 195.7). Handgun purchasers accounted for less than 1% of the study population but 2.4% of gun homicides, 14.2% of gun suicides, and 16.7% of unintentional gun deaths. Gun suicide made up 18.9% of deaths among purchasers but only 0.6% of deaths among non-purchasers.

    Conclusion: Among adults who died in California in 1998, those dying from violence were more likely than those dying from non-injury causes to have purchased a handgun.

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