Study: Gun Purchase Waiting Periods Help Prevent Suicide

(MUNCIE) – A new study says states that have laws enforcing a delay period before someone who buys a handgun can actually receive it have lower suicide rates.

Ball State economics professor Erik Nesson was one of several college professors from all over the U.S. to take part in the study. He said if all states adopted gun purchase delay laws it would prevent around 600 suicides every year.

“A lot of suicides are fairly impulsive,” Nesson said. “A lot of research in other areas has shown that you can prevent a lot of suicides through very small changes that make it a little more difficult for someone to commit suicide.”

Nesson said these small changes could be anything from making pill bottles harder to open to prevent someone from killing themselves through an overdose, to putting up more fencing on bridges to keep people from jumping off them.

He added a gun purchase waiting period would do the same thing.

“If someone is thinking committing suicide by using a gun,” Nesson said. “They buy that gun and they have to wait a couple days to receive that gun. By the time they receive that gun, their suicidal state may have passed.”

Nesson also said he understands the controversy behind the idea with many gun rights advocates arguing these types of laws may infringe on their second amendment rights.

“Firearms are a contentious and polarizing topic in American culture,” he said. “What we show here is that any delay policy associated with the purchase of a handgun can help to mitigate some of the negative externalities of gun ownership, specifically suicide.”

Right now only 11 states have such a law where a gun buyer has to wait until they can’t actually take possession of a gun, which is down from 16 states in 1990. Indiana does not have any law enforcing a waiting period after purchasing a firearm.