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Suicides connected to gun ownership

Guns kept at home are often used to commit suicide, with above-average numbers of such suicides committed in central Swiss cantons.

This content was published on July 28, 2010 - 13:21

These are the conclusions of a Zurich University study published on Wednesday which for the first time looked at the link between gun ownership and suicide.

Cantons Uri, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Basel Country, Schwyz, Glarus, Aargau and Bern all had above-average gun suicides. The researchers pointed out that many households in these cantons contained weapons – almost every second home (45 per cent) in the first four cantons had at least one gun.

The study looked at the period 1998-2007, during which 13,410 suicides were carried out, 3,169 with a gun. A third of men kill themselves with weapons, whereas only 3.4 per cent of women do.

Study leader Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross said guns were very often used in impulse suicides combined with drugs or alcohol when someone is dealt a blow of fate or faces an acute crisis.

Researchers reckoned that suitable measures taken by organisations such as the army, police force and hunting associations could prevent up to 100 suicides a year.

A national vote to ban military weapons from households is set for February 2011. Launched in February 2009 by the centre-left Social Democratic Party and a number of pacifist organisations, the people’s initiative calls for army weapons to remain in barracks and for a national gun register to be created.

It also wants to ban private individuals from buying or owning particularly dangerous guns such as automatic weapons and pump-action shotguns.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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