Our Grants

Guns and Suicide Among Black Americans


This study will, for Black Americans, describe household gun ownership patterns, determine accurate proxies for state-level gun ownership when survey measures are not available, and analyze the state-level relationships between household gun ownership levels and rates of firearm suicide, non-firearm suicide, and overall suicide.




The project seeks to improve understanding of characteristics of Black families who own guns, the relationship between gun ownership and suicide among Black families; and to further the discussion about how to measure gun availability.


We will combine data from the 2001, 2002, and 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to compare age, rurality, binge drinking, and mental health issues between Black households with and without firearms, and firearm owning Black households and White households. Using BRFSS gun ownership measures as the gold standard, we will determine the best non-survey proxies for Black household gun ownership. We will then use negative binomial regression to analyze the cross-state relationship between Black household gun ownership levels and suicide, using death data from CDC's WONDER database, controlling for poverty, urbanization, inequality, and other potential confounders.


Little is known about Black gun ownership patterns, the relationship between Black gun ownership and Black suicide, or whether gun ownership is a good proxy for gun availability for Black youth. This work will inform programs and policies intended to reduce the growing problem of suicide among Black people.

Published Research

Investigator Bio

David Hemenway, Ph.D., professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, is co-director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and former director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center. He has written a book and more than 150 journal articles on firearms. In 2012 he was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the twenty “most influential injury and violence professionals over the past 20 years.” He has won 10 Harvard teaching awards.

Grant Amount
Award Type
Harvard Injury Control Research Center
David Hemenway, professor, Harvard Chan School of Public Health
Expected Completion Date
June 2022
Focus Areas
Gun Suicides