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Original article

Vol. 148 No. 3738 (2018)

Suicide by firearm in Switzerland: who uses the army weapon? Results from the national survey between 2000 and 2010

DOI
https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2018.14646
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2018;148:w14646
Published
23.09.2018

Abstract

AIMS

In comparison with other central European countries, Switzerland has a high prevalence of gun ownership and a high rate of suicide by shooting. After the Army XXI reform in 2003, which reduced personnel from about 400,000 to approximately 200,000, a decline in suicides by firearms and a decline in the total number of suicides was observed in national data spanning the period from 2000 to 2010. It is, however, unclear whether this decline can be linked to the reduced availability of military guns. This study explored whether the decline in suicide by firearms is related to the decline of suicides by army weapons.

METHODS

In 83.1% (n = 1112) of the 1338 suicides by firearm between 2000 and 2010 in Switzerland, the firearm could be categorised as an army weapon or a non-army weapon. The army weapon was used in 39.1% of these suicides. In comparison with other firearms, those who used army weapons tended to be younger and more likely to have a university degree. A prior suicide attempt was found less often in cases using a military weapon than other firearms. After the Army XXI reform, there was a significant drop in suicides by males aged 18 to 43 years using an army weapon, but no change in male suicide rates in the same age group who used a non-army weapon. The drop was statistically linked to a reduction of suicide by the army gun.

RESULTS

The army weapon was used in 39.1% of suicides by firearm between 2000 and 2010 in Switzerland. In comparison with other methods, those who used army weapons tended to be younger and more likely to have a university degree. A prior suicide attempt was found less often in cases using a military weapon than other methods. After the Army XXI reform, there was a significant drop in suicides by males aged 18 to 43 years using an army weapon, but no change in males’ suicide rates in the same age group who used a non-army weapon. The drop was statistically linked to a reduction of suicide by the army gun.

CONCLUSIONS

Males who use army weapons differ from those who use other types of weapons. The significant drop in suicides was found in males aged 18 to 43 but there was no change in males of the same age group who used a non-army weapon. These results support the hypotheses that the observed drop in suicides is linked to the Army XXI reform and that restriction of access to guns is essential for reducing suicides by firearm.

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