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Utility of indices of gun availability in the community
  1. Edmond D Shenassa1,
  2. Constantine Daskalakis2,
  3. Stephen L Buka3
  1. 1Department of Community Health, Brown School of Medicine, Providence, USA and Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, Brown School of Medicine and The Miriam Hospital, USA
  2. 2Biostatistics Section, Department of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, USA
  3. 3Departments of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, and Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr E D Shenassa
 Department of Community Health and Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, Brown Medical School, One Hoppin Street, Suite 500, Providence, RI 02903, USA; Edmond_Shenassa{at}


Objective: To estimate the degree to which the proportion of homicides and suicides committed with a gun is associated with reported availability of firearms across Chicago neighbourhoods.

Methods: Data were collected as part of the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), a combined neighbourhood and individual level study of the city of Chicago. The study used data from 837 PHDCN participants between the ages of 17 and 22, residing in 170 different neighbourhoods. Gun availability was measured via participant reports on whether they had carried a gun and whether they perceived gun access to be easy in their community. Data on suicides and homicides were obtained from the Chicago Department of Health.

Results: A 10% change in the proportion of homicides committed by a gun in a neighbourhood was associated with a 20% increase in both the odds of reported gun access and reported gun carrying (p = 0.002 and 0.048, respectively). The proportion of firearm related suicides was not associated with either of those self reported measures.

Conclusions: The proportion of firearm related homicides, but not the proportion of firearm related suicides, is a useful predictor of gun availability across small areas such as neighbourhoods.

  • firearms
  • suicide
  • homicide
  • public health
  • epidemiology

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  • Funding for PHDCN was provided by the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute of Justice.

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.

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